Abductions have always remained a serious issue in Turkey. With the brief exception of the 2000s Turkey has unfortunately had a poor track record as far as dealing with the issue of abduction of individuals is concerned. Between 2002 and 2015 only 1 case of enforced disappearance was transmitted to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. However, since 2016 the trend has reversed with 68 cases of abductions between then and 2020/2021. The 68 are reported cases and thus unreported cases can be thought off to be several times higher.
There are two kinds of abductions that Turkey is involved in. Abductions within borders i.e. domestic abductions and domestic beyond the International borders. As far as abductions in the international borders is concerned, Turkish officials have repeatedly claimed that Turkey was involved in more than 100 international abductions. In fact, in sharp contrast, Turkey is much more open about its responsibility in terms of extra-territorial abductions.
Abductions take place in broad daylight without any fear of consequences and repercussions from the law and order machienary. For instance, an individual was abducted by a heavily armed group of almost 40 people with many witnesses being present. In these instances people did testify to the police about the abduction of individuals. For instance in the case where an individual was abducted by 40 people there were many witnesses who gave detailed information to the police about such abductions. Technology such as CCTV cameras also did not act as a deterrence against perpetrators who wanted to kidnap individuals in this particular case and did not in the case of other individuals.
Many of the abductees were considered by the Turkish State as political opponents. Therefore, many went into hiding knowing that they would be the next in line to get arrested. There were many ways to deduce the involvement of the state in internal abductions of individual people. One was that reference can be made to various statements made by people who were initially abducted but then resurfaced and were finally able to make statements. In one particular case an individual testified before the Ankara 34th High Criminal Court that he was abducted by some of his former Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (“MIT”) colleagues. During a March 2019 hearing in a separate case an individual confirmed that he worked for the Turkish state before he was he was abducted by MIT. Once he was released the abducted individual told human rights watch that he had been kept for 3 months in a secret detention facility by men who told him they worked for the state.
Even more incriminating evidence of state involvement in such abductions is that CCTV showing that the abductors frequently wore clothes or badges indicating that they worked for the Turkish police forces or the Turkish secret services. Moreover, these abductions were confirmed by confirmed by a video interview given by Mustafa Yeneroğlu, member of Turkish parliament and former chair of the parliament’s Committee on Human Rights Inquiry.
All abductees, consequently, disappeared for a period ranging from one month to as much as two years without any information on their whereabouts was given.
There are also other ways by which abductees are harassed by the Turkish state. They are as follows;
- The abductees are not allowed to openly discuss their situation with their relatives.
- The abductees are limited in their right to choose their own lawyer.
- The abductees are not brought promptly for a judge
- The abductees are put under pressure to not fully pursue their defence
- The abductees are prevented from being examined by an independent physician.
As a consequence of such manifestly illegal actions by the Turkish state and government political opponents and in extension the ordinary public life in fear in the event that they criticize their government. The public at large fear terrible consequences for them and their family which has a chilling effect on freedom of speech, privacy of individual, fundamental human rights and most importantly the dignity of the larger public. The public and especially political opponents live in fear of repression and with no guarantee for their safety and security. The situation is such that anything can happen anyone opposing the government.
Most experts consider such actions to be violations of international laws and statutes and is considered to be enforced disappearances by such experts who understand the legality and illegality of state actions.
The UN on the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance (the “UN Declaration”) enforced disappearances occur when “persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organised groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.”
Article 1 of the UN declaration states that:
“Any act of enforced disappearance is an offence to human dignity. It is condemned as a denial of the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and as a grave and flagrant violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and reaffirmed and developed in international instruments in this field.”
The actions of the Turkish state and known facts corroborate with the definitions of what constitutes abductions or specific method of abduction like enforced disappearances.