Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is asked to investigate the Turkish government for alleged crimes against humanity in its persecution and persecution of opponents around the world.
A panel of European legal experts has compiled a dossier of witness statements detailing torture, state-sponsored kidnapping, and unjust imprisonment of some 200,000 people, said to have been carried out by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The dossier is due to be handed over to ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan on Wednesday.
“Turkish officials have committed crimes against humanity against hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Erdogan regime,” the submission says. “These crimes are a ‘widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population’, which meets the threshold for the ICC to launch proceedings against senior officials of the Erdogan regime.
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Turkey is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, but the Turkey Tribunal, an investigative body created in 2020 by lawyers and human rights groups to gather evidence and witness testimony, said at least some of the alleged crimes were brought. out on the territory of 45 ICC member states, as Turkey has pursued its perceived enemies far beyond its borders. Therefore, the court argues, the ICC has jurisdiction.
The ICC submission says there have been 17 cases of enforced disappearances in which victims were abducted from Kenya, Cambodia, Gabon, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland and taken to Turkey. The targets were linked to the opposition movement, led by US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, designated as a terrorist organization after Gülen was accused of being behind a failed coup attempt in 2016which was followed by hundreds of thousands of arrests in Turkey.
On October 14, 2019, Osman Karaca was kidnapped by unidentified men, believed to be the Cambodian terror police, while visiting a bank in Phnom Penh. Karaca, 49 at the time, is a Turkish-born teacher who had been a school principal in Cambodia before moving to Mexico in 2011 where he was a university principal until the end of 2018. He had feared that he was being watched by Turkish intelligence. because he had worked in a school linked to the Gülen movement. In 2019, Karaca accepted an invitation to return to Cambodia to work at a school whose owners were linked to members of the Cambodian government, thinking he would be safe.
After being held incommunicado for four days, Karaca was handed over to Turkish authorities who flew him to Turkey in a small government jet. He was convicted of leading an armed terrorist group in the 2016 coup attempt, despite the fact that he had left Turkey for Cambodia in 2002.
The court says Karaca is just one of many Turks living abroad who have been designated as “terrorists” because of links to Gulenist schools or other institutions. The court’s submission to the court also includes statements about the torture of 800 people, which it says “describe in detail how torture was inflicted on a large and consistent scale.”
The Turkish foreign minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“This must be investigated,” said Johan Vande Lanotte, a former Belgian deputy prime minister and human rights law professor who helped create the court and is leading the effort to persuade the ICC to open an investigation. “The basic universal principles of international law are being violated.”
The Turkish Court indicates that there is a precedent for investigating the crimes of a non-signatory state. In 2019, the ICC decided that it could investigate the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, although Myanmar did not recognize the authority of the court, because many of the victims were deported to Bangladesh, which is a signatory to the ICC. Therefore, the court argued, “elements of the crime were committed in a member state.”
In the case of Turkey, he argues, “the crimes were committed on the territory of 45 state parties, for which the ICC has territorial jurisdiction. These specific crimes are linked to approximately 1,300 victims.”
Vande Lanotte said: “We had the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, the UN Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights, and even judges in Turkey itself, and nothing has been done, so this is the last possibility of justice.”