Rights defenders see coup report as promising
Advocates also call for more investigation and for the commission's recommendations to be implemented.
By Ali Ciftci for SES Türkiye in Ankara -- 07/12/12
A parliamentary commission's report on military coups in Turkey is groundbreaking, but insufficient for democracy and reconciliation, human rights defenders told SES Türkiye.
Photos of victims of the 1980 military coup at an exhibition in Ankara. A parliamentary commission investigating military coups and memorandums recently completed its report. [AFP]
The all-party Coup and Memorandum Research Commission's 1,404 page report explored the causes of coups, the rights violations they resulted in, political killings and reforms needed to prevent abuses from recurring in the future.
It attributed the coups to "polarisation" between elected and unelected officials that had existed "from the establishment of the Republic of Turkey until the present."
"Behind this is the deep mistrust felt toward elected officials who come from society felt by some bureaucrats who see themselves as the 'real' owner of the state. According to this mistaken perception, elected officials in Turkey, or politicians, at the end of the day are 'untrustworthy people who see their own interests and the national interests as the same'," the report said.
The document concluded with 20 suggestions, among them boosting protections for human rights, releasing secret documents that may include important information about the past, and strengthening civilian control over the army.
Hamit Kandal, who spent almost 20 years in Diyarbakir prison following the 1980 military coup, told SES Türkiye the report was an important step but needed to go further in investigating rights violations.
"I find the report important, but the result of it isn't satisfactory. I definitely think the commission needed to go to the east side of the Firat River, since the real victims of the coup were Kurds," he said.
Kandal said the commission focused on how the coups impacted political institutions instead of their consequences for opposition movements.
"The real target of the coups wasn't governments, but dissidents, who were targeted in coups because the government couldn't silence them," he said.
In remarks posted on the ruling party's website, AKP Istanbul deputy Nimet Bas, who chaired the parliamentary commission that wrote the report, stood behind the document but agreed it had shortcomings.
"We're at a turning point for democracy and the law," she said. "We're not saying our report is spectacular and perfect. But in light of the information we gathered through testimonies and documents acquired from state institutions, we say this report is of historic importance."
Bas added that more needs to be done to deliver democracy and accountability.
"Great pain and victimisation were experienced during the periods of coups. There's more we need to do on the road to democracy in order to account for this victimhood. All dark rooms need to be illuminated to prevent future coups and extrajudicial killings, and so the door of justice is never again slammed in the face of citizens."
Lawyer Serdar Celebi, a member of the central executive committee of the Human Rights Association, told SES Türkiye the commission's report will contribute to democracy and social reconciliation, but that it's not enough for either.
"The recent coup commission report describes and interrogates all the crimes committed against Islamic segments, but it doesn't touch on the murders and repression in the Kurdish region," he said. "This shows that it doesn't have a good intention from the beginning."
He added: "If the violations of human rights against Kurds are discussed, Turks will become part of the horrors experienced and this will also contribute to reconciliation."
Tahir Elci, who was recently elected president of the Diyarbaki Bar Association, told SES Türkiye it was "extremely important that that parliament took the initiative on this."
The veteran rights defender added: "There was a civilian coup in 1993. In this period members of parliaments were aggressively detained, thousands of people were murdered in the streets, and thousands of villages were destroyed. These issues need to be researched."
Celebi called on the government to deepen democracy by following up on the commission's recommendations.
"The coups created a mentality. Removing this mentality will take a long time," Celebi said. "Prime Minister Erdogan is being supported. He should take steps to completely remove the legal and legislative legacy of the coup and create a new beginning."