"Whether he wrote DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER, or whether he refrained from writing it, made no difference. Whether he went on with the diary, or whether he did not go on with it, made no difference. The Thought Police would get him just the same. He had committed -- would still have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper -- the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it."
~ George Orwell, 1984.
~ George Orwell, 1984.
The hevals over at KurdishInfo have an informative little article from DIHA about Osman Baydemir's legal battles:
AMED (DIYARBAKIR) (DIHA) - Anything said and done by Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Osman Baydemir since he was the head of Human Rights Association (HRA) Diyarbakir Department in 1998, was made a matter of law case or interrogation. Becoming subject for interrogation for 193 times, law cases and interrogations against Baydemir were multiplied in 2004.
The article continues to give a breakdown of how many charges were in different court jurisdictions, how many were acquitted, how many are still ongoing, etc., and it finishes with some of the more recent charges against Osman. Some of those are still ongoing, such as the charge against him and 55 other DTP mayors for sending a letter of support for Roj TV to Danish PM Rasmussen and for sending an Amed municipality ambulance to carry a gerîla's body to his family.
Perhaps one of the most ridiculous charges is the one in which Osman is accused of "demeaning the people publicly by paying respect to differences of race and region," a charge stemming from a magazine interview. Where else in the world is someone charged with being a terrorist for making statements respecting differences in race or region? Or can anyone imagine someone in the US being charged as a terrorist for saying "Mr. Abdullah Ocalan?"
Only in Turkey and nowhere else.
Osman isn't the only DTP mayor or politician being harassed by ridiculous charges either, but he is the target of the greatest number of charges. This is directly proportional to his popularity, a popularity which is seen as a very dangerous thing by the state.
Keeping all of that information about Osman Baydemir in mind, consider an item from Bianet, which discusses the reservations of the UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin on the new Turkish anti-terror draft. In a letter to the Turkish Parliament Justice Committee, Martin Scheinin details his concerns that the anti-terror draft will be unlawful according to international law:
Scheinin's letter assessed the draft according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and also with reference to certain provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
He said the very definition of "terrorism" and "terrorist offences" in the draft were contrary to the spirit of his comments and recommendations after his country visit to Turkey on 16-23 February 2006 as UN Special Rapporteur, adding that "such indiscriminate use of the terms 'terrorism' and 'terrorist', apart from the concerns raised as to the principle of legality, risks undermining the effectiveness of the struggle against actual terrorists".
Terms and definitions of the bill, especially with regard to "terrorism" and "terrorist" are too broad and vague, leading to fears that too many innocent people will be charged for actions that in and of themselves have nothing to do with "terrorism." This, in turn, leads to an indiscriminate use of the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist," which will undermine any actual fight against terrorism.
From the perspective of Kurds under Turkish occupation, there is already very little legitimacy to the terms because terrorists themselves, i.e. the state, are the ones who formulate, pass and enforce law. As proof of this, simply consider the example of Osman Baydemir and the charges against him, charges which are made under existing law, not taking into account the new anti-terror draft. For these "crimes," he is also charged with being a member of a "terrorist" organization, and the state demands his imprisonment. From this we can see that the ideas of "terrorism" or "terrorist" are already illegitimate.
Special Rapporteur Scheinin fears that the vagueness of the definitions in the new anti-terror draft will severely hamper freedom of expression rights and that punishments will be disproportional to the "crimes." As another example of vagueness of terms leading to violations of free expression rights, we might want to consider the possible 15-year prison sentence DTP politician Mahmut Alinak is facing for saying this at a conference:
"The strategy of peace and dialogue towards state officials should be dropped and an eye-to-eye civil political struggle should be launched. The address of this era shouldn't be the helm of the state, but the Kurdish and Turkish people."
In commenting on the charge against him, Alinak hit the nail on the head:
"Here is the disgrace they call democracy," said Alinak, claiming that they are asked to remain silent or, if they do speak up, to praise the regime.
A little ThoughtCrime anyone?
Rights to confidentiality between client and attorney will be severely abused, shoot-to-kill policies will violate right to life, and impunity of security forces will continue to be encouraged if the new anti-terror draft is signed into law. Since Turkey has a long history of serious abuses in all of these subjects, there is absolutely no reason to believe it will improve its barbaric record with this draft anti-terror law. Instead, anyone who has familiarity with Turkey's history knows that serious violations will increase. I have no doubt that Turkey's brutal application of "justice" in the past weighed heavily in the Special Rapporteur's mind when he made his initial evaluations to the Turkish parliament, as well as now, in this current letter.
In noting that the number of offences classified as "terrorist" has increased, the Special Rapporteur named a few of those offenses. One of the examples given is the new "crime" of wearing a mask in a demonstration. This refers to covering the face with a traditional Kurdish head covering. Since there have been more installations of surveillance cameras to control the Kurdish population, this ban on masks is pretty irrelevant. Everyone is going to wrap their faces in order to subvert Big Brother's placement of the cameras. For every demonstrator's personal safety, I encourage them to do this.
Another offense that will be expanded into a "terrorist" offense is the deliberate setting of forest fires. That causes me to wonder if the state is going to charge the Ikizce Commando Battalion, one of the state's own security forces, for its recent, deliberate setting of forest fires in the Şirnex region:
BİA (Sirnak) - A forest fire on Sirnak's Cudi mountain in Southeast Turkey that started on June 13 continues to devastate the environment while local journalist Kerem Celik blames the local Ikizce Commando Battalion for setting fire to the trees on grounds of "security".
News of the ongoing fire coincides with Human Rights Association (IHD) Bingol branch executive board member Ridvan Kizgin's claim that the Bingol Regiment Command has launched its own campaign to eliminate trees surrounding roads within provincial borders for a similar "security" reason.
[ . . . ]
Journalist Celik told bianet in relation to the Cudi fire that "the first fire was set off with a small area in the military field, around the [Ikizce Commando Battalion] station being set on fire for reasons of security. But the fire could not be controlled and it spread".
Celik added that as the fire was in a military zone, outside interference was not possible and said "according to our observation, the soldiers took no observable measures to prevent the fire from spreading".
So, tell me, who's the real terrorist here?
Since we're on the subject of law, or what passes for law, legal history was made in Turkey last week. By order of a Turkish court, no IP number originating in Turkey will be able to access HPG's website. This legal news is brought to you courtesy of DozaMe. If you follow the link to DozaMe, you can read more and get some information on how to bypass Turkey's first internet censorship.
Happy surfing, Kurdistan fans!