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30 March 2006

Following his visit to Turkey from 16 to 23 February 2006, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Martin Scheinin, today issued his preliminary report, in which he puts forward a series of recommendations. The following is his statement:

An issue central to ensuring compatibility of counter-terrorism with international human rights standards, is the definition of terrorism. In this regard the Special Rapporteur urges that what crimes constitute acts of terrorism should be more precisely defined; these should be confined to acts of deadly or otherwise grave violence against persons or the taking of hostages. Such a narrowing of the scope of what can be called terrorism would also have the positive effect of making the fight against such crimes more targeted and effective.

The Special Rapporteur notes with great satisfaction that the many efforts undertaken by the Government in the area of human rights, such as intensified human rights training, a zero-tolerance policy vis-à-vis torture and a considerable improvement in physical conditions of places of detention have led to significant progress, which is widely recognized by the civil society. However, he has not found convincing evidence that independent and impartial mechanisms to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of terrorism suspects are in place. He also regrets that no functioning monitoring system for places of detention by independent human rights institutions or non-governmental organisations exists in Turkey.

The Special Rapporteur also reminds the Government that, whereas the adoption of the Act on Compensation of Victims of Terrorism is a very laudable step in the right direction and the mere existence of such a law can serve as an example of a best practice to be studied by other countries, it is confined to material compensation and falls short of full restitution and rehabilitation. He also stressed that respecting economic, social and cultural rights helps to eliminate the risk that individuals make the morally inexcusable decision to resort to acts of terrorism and that, in order for all inhabitants of Turkey to fully enjoy their human rights without discrimination, persons belonging to different cultural and linguistic groups, including the Kurdish population, should enjoy protection of their cultural and linguistic rights.

Background on Special Rapporteur

Mr. Scheinin accepted the appointment as first Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism on 8 August 2005. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity. He previously served eight years as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. He is Professor of Constitutional Law and International Law and Director of the Human Rights Institute at Abo Akademi University in Finland.

The full preliminary report on the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Turkey can be found at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/docs/62chr/E.CN.4.2006.98.Add.2.pdf