UN Working Group urges Turkish gov’t to terminate enforced disappearances

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The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances urged Ankara “to prevent and terminate enforced disappearances,” in its annual report on enforced or involuntary disappearances presented to the 48th regular session of the Human Rights Council between Sept. 13 and Oct. 1.

“The Working Group reiterates its concern about the continued justification of extraterritorial abductions and forced returns under the pretext of combating terrorism and protecting national security,” the report said and added, “In this regard, the Working Group urges the Government of Turkey to prevent and terminate enforced disappearances, as stipulated in article 2 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.”

The Working Group said it received reports of serious allegations of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, “shortly before, during or in the immediate aftermath of alleged transnational transfers from Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Panama and Uzbekistan, as well as from Kosovo, to Turkey.”

The Working Group underlined that no circumstances, including a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, can justify enforced disappearances.

During the 1980s and ’90s, many people “disappeared” in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish areas. The practice had been long gone until it reappeared in the wake of an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that claimed the lives of 251 people on July 15, 2016.

Dozens of enforced disappearances have been reported in Turkey since the abortive putsch, with more than 20 of the victims reporting, after they were found, that they were subjected to torture during the time they were “missing.”

The victims of those enforced disappearance cases were mostly alleged followers of the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and targeted by the president since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

The war against the movement culminated after the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016 because Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accused the movement of masterminding the abortive putsch and initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

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