Since the beginning of 1990s, as a result of the political developments in all around the world, human rights has gained importance in the international politics and the studies in the field of further development and protection of the human rights have become more intense. Investigating the human rights violations; the necessity of monitoring the international human rights standards and transferring them to the implementation at the national level and cooperation with the international protection mechanisms has arised. This necessity has been a source to the emergence of a new actor called non-judicial protection mechanisms. These new actors called national human rights institutions are separated from the others in terms of determination of their duties and powers in a legal basis framework and their being impartial and independent.
In order for the governments to establish the most appropriate and effective national institution, the Paris Principles, which are recognized as the recommendations and guidelines that have been developed and adopted as the minimum standards, has been accepted by the UN General Assembly in 1993. Although the Paris Principles is a complement of recommendations, it has gained an important political and moral weight for the national institutions in the sense of providing independence and authorization as a basis. However, the units established in the field of human rights in Turkey since the beginning of the 1990s, have been considered as problematic institutional structures in terms of effectiveness and continuity with respect to the quality of “independence” specified in the Paris Principles and due to their establishment without making a close examination.
The institutionalization process in Turkey, has gained a different momentum in the 2000s, after the application made for full membership to the EU in 1987. Among the short term priorities of the Accession Partnership Document, which is a part of the EU acquis and at the same time having the characteristics of a course of action for the candidate countries, there was the necessity of establishing an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, to which the sufficient financial resources were provided. As a result of works carried out in this context, the Human Rights Institution of Turkey has been established by the Law dated 06.21.2012 and numbered 6332, and the previous units affiliated to the Prime Ministry have been ceases to exist by Article 22 of the same law.
The Human Rights Institution of Turkey has been established as a special budgeted institution provided with the public entity and having the administrative and financial autonomy in order to fulfill the missions and exercise the powers given by the Law No. 6332 and by other relevant legislation.
The Institution is associated with the Prime Ministry. The center of the Institution is in Ankara and the Institution can open offices within the country and abroad, on condition that the number of offices abroad shall not exceed two.
The Institution is official and authorized to make studies on the protection and development of human rights, on the prevention of violations; to struggle against torture and ill-treatment; to investigate complaints and applications and to follow their results; to take action in the direction of solving the problems; to carry out training activities for this purpose; to carry out researches and examinations with the purpose of following and assessing the developments in the field of human rights.
The organization of Human Rights Institution of Turkey consists of the Human Rights Committee, which is the decision-making body of the Institution, and of a Presidentship. The Committee is composed of eleven members in total, including one President and one Vice President.
Seven members are elected by the Council of Ministers, two members by the President of the Republic, one member by the Board of Higher Education and one member by the presidents of the Bar Association. The President and Vice President are elected by the members of the Committee. The Presidency; consists of the Vice President, the service units and the working groups. The Presidency is in charge with implementing the resolutions of the Committee and to assist the President and the Committee in other matters.
The Human Rights Institution of Turkey fulfills its duties and uses its powers independently. No organ, authority or person body can give orders and instructions to the Committee or can advise and inculcate about the matters relating to their duties.
While fulfilling its duties to examine, research, visit and report preparation, the Institution is authorized to request the related information and documents from all public institutions and organizations and from other natural and legal persons, to examine and take their samples, to get written and oral information from those concerned, to visit the locations of people who are deprived of their liberty or who are under protection, to make examinations hereabouts and to make the necessary official reports.
The public institutions and organizations and other natural and legal persons have to fulfill the demands of the Institution without delay, and provide the necessary assistance and facileness with regard to their visit.
Besides being the National Human Rights Institution, the Human Rights Institution of Turkey has been designated as the National Prevention Mechanism to carry out works on prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment within the context of “Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”.
Turkey has signed the “Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” on September 14, 2005, found its approval appropriate by the Law dated February 23, 2011 and numbered 6167 and the Protocol has been approved on June 15, 2011.
After the approval process, the Human Rights Institution of Turkey has been appointed as the National Prevention Mechanism by the resolution of the Council of Ministers dated 12.09.2013 and numbered 2013/5711 which has entered into force by being published in the Official Gazette dated January 28, 2014 and numbered 28896
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International Standards on the Human Rights Institution of Turkey and the National Human Rights Institutions National Prevention Mechanism
Brief History (of Institutional Structures Established in the Field of Human Rights in Turkey)
National human rights organizations emerged in the second half of the 20th century as a phenomenon evolving in parallel with the process of safeguarding human rights at the international level. While human rights organizations emerged as a model of national institutions, international efforts significantly contributed to their development and proliferation. National organizations were considered by the UN and its various organs as independent organizations monitoring the protection and improvement of human rights after the 1940s. Triggered as a result of initiatives taken by the UN Human Rights Council in 1946 for establishing "national committees", continued with the adoption of Paris Principles, laying down international standards related to national organizations, in 1991 and the approval of these standards by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
International Coordinating Committee (ICC) was set up in 1993 under the aegis of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in order to verify that national human rights organization comply with international standards. There was a growing interest in these organizations in response to an appeal made in the Vienna Declaration, adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in the same year, for the establishment of national institutions in accordance with the Paris Principles. There were eight organizations in status (A) in terms of compliance with international standards in 1993 and the number of organizations with this status rose to 70 in January 2014. Efforts are under way in many countries to set up organizations conforming to international standards or to ensure that existing institutions comply with those standards.
The process of the institutionalization of human rights in Turkey began in the 1990s when national human rights organizations began proliferating in the world. In that context, human rights structures were organized as committees within the legislature or units subordinated to the executive. Some of the units within the legislature directly reported to the Prime Minister's Office while others were set up as departments of specific ministries. A Committee for the Examination of Human Rights was set up within the TGNA and human rights units were formed within various ministries, including the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as other governmental departments and agencies. Some of the units under the Prime Minister's Office were established in order to advise the government on human rights issues whereas some others were tasked with investigating human rights violations.
Efforts to ensure institutionalization in the field of human rights in Turkey moved in parallel with global developments.
The first step in that regard was taken with the establishment of a Committee for the Examination of Human Rights within the TGNA in 1990. A State Minister was tasked with monitoring and coordinating human rights issues after 1991. A High Advisory Council on Human Rights and the Office of Senior Advisor on Human Rights, reporting to the State Minister, were set up in 1994 by virtue of a Directive issued by the Prime Minister's Office. After the dissolution of the Council in 1996, a Higher Council on Coordination of Human Rights was established under Directive No 1997/17 of 09.04.1997 issued by the Prime Minister's Office. This Council is chaired by the State Minister and consists of the Undersecretary in the Office of Prime Minister and the undersecretaries of ministers concerned.
In the following period, the National Committee on Decade for Human Rights Education was founded under a Regulation promulgated in the Official Gazette No. 23362 on 04.06.1998 and provincial and county human rights councils were set up in accordance with the Regulation promulgated in the Official Gazette No. 24218 on 02.11.2000.
One of the major steps toward the institutionalization of human rights within the government was taken with the foundation of the Human Rights Department under the Prime Minister's Office pursuant to the Legislative Decree on 05.10.2000. When the enabling act was rescinded by the Constitutional Court, "Human Rights Department" was formed as part of the central organization of the Prime Minister's Office by virtue of Law No. 4643 of 12.04.2001, which amended Law No. 3056 on the organization of the Prime Minister's Office, which contained the same provisions.
Supplementary articles to the same Law regulates the establishment of the "Higher Council of Human Rights" and the "Advisory Committee on Human Rights" and provided a legal foundation for "Delegations for the Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights" in order to enquire into alleged violations. The Human Rights Department was responsible for providing secretarial services for the Higher Council of Human Rights, Advisory Committee on Human Rights, and Delegations for the Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights in order to ensure that a permanent department within the Prime Minister's Office could deal with and coordinate human rights issues with support provided by related mechanisms.
The purpose of the Committee for the Examination of Human Rights within the TGNA, the first unit in the field of human rights, was described as "developing respect for human rights i the world and Turkey and to monitor related developments in order to ensure that policies are consistent with those developments and to examine applications regarding violations."
Human Rights Advisory Councils were set up in order to provide communication regarding human rights between related public agencies and NGOs and to function as an advisory body focusing on national and international human rights issues.
Roles and responsibilities of the Human Rights Department under the Prime Minister's Office:
Meanwhile, provincial and county human rights councils are tasked with examining allegations of violations at local level; examining and investigating administrative, legal, political, and social reasons leading to violations of rights and to make recommendations about how they can be tackled.
Nonetheless, these units which were set up in order to institutionalize human rights in Turkey in the 1990s and early in the 2000s were structures not functioning as a national human rights institution and lacked "independence" specified in the Paris Principles.
Recommendations in EU progress reports, proposing to establish an institutional structure conforming to the Paris Principles and experience gained at the central and local levels since the 1990s was instrumental in the establishment of the Human Rights Agency of Turkey.
In that context, the Human Rights Agency of Turkey was set up by virtue of Law No. 6332 of 21.06.2012 and previous units reporting to the Office of Prime Minister were abolished pursuant to article 22 of the same Law (Paragraph 7 of provisional Article 1 of the Law stipulates that provincial and county human rights councils would function as the Agency's bureaus pending the establishment of its bureaus).
The rationale for the Law states that a national human rights organization conforming to the Paris Principles is expected to be established by taking account of the lack of a system complying with the Paris Principles, despite the presence of an extensive institutionalization of human rights in Turkey, which was criticized by various agencies and institutions at the national level and also at international level, particularly in EU progress reports.
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A Turkey where everyone is ensured that his/her rights and dignity are protected.
To carry out the following activities in order to ensure that human rights are recognized, protected and exercised:
To inquire and investigate alleged violations and monitor the outcomes.
To carry out the activities in order to promote and strengthen human rights;
To carry out the following works in order to improve cooperation in the area of human rights;
According to the law numbered 6332, on the Human Rights Institution of Turkey, which came into force by being published at the Official Gazette on 30.06.2012 numbered 283339, the duties and competencesof the Institution are as follows:
The institution shall notify and bring about a complaint to the relevant authorities in cases of any crimes that it comes across during carrying out its duties of investigation, research and reviewing of petitions and applications.
A regular preventive visit system is foreseen to be established by Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in which independent international and national bodies carry out visits to the locations where persons deprived of their liberty are detained.
Approval process for Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been completed on 27th September 2011 for any regular visit for detainment locations.
With that protocol establishment one or more national mechanisms have been assumed to be established by each party state to prevent torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and punishment.
Under the scope of the related assumption, National Human Rights Institution of Turkey has been identified as the national prevention mechanism based on the decision published in Official Gazette dated 28th January 2014 to carry out the duties and execute the authorizations assumed in Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
National Human Rights Institution of Turkey is duly authorized; to carry out regular visits with or without notice to locations where persons are detained or protected; to transfer reports of those visits to related institutions and organizations, to publicize the reports if required by the Board; to review and evaluate the reports prepared by prisons and detention houses’ monitoring boards, province and sub-provinces’ human rights boards and other institutions and organizations.
Additionally, in accordance with OPCAT (m.20) national prevention mechanism hold below authorizations:
· To access any information related to persons who are deprived of their liberties in detainment locations apart from the number and locations of those places.;
· To access any information related to attitude and detention conditions of those persons;
· To access all the detention places, detention buildings and facilities;
· To interview with persons deprived of their liberties without any witness, directly or with the assistance of an interpreter and with the persons whom the national prevention mechanism believes to be proper to interview with;
· To freely choose the places and persons to interview with freely;
· To contact with Prevention Sub-committee, to inform the sub-committee and to gather (the authorization) with sub-committee.
(1) The duties and powers of the service units of the Institution shall be as follows:
a) The Unit of Inquiry into Alleged Violations:
(1) To inquire into, examine and evaluate any allegations of human rights violations upon application or ex officio, and to monitor and notify the results to relevant persons, agencies and organizations; to take necessary steps for legal action against those found responsible.
b) The Unit for Combatting Torture and Ill-Treatment:
(1) To carry out activities to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments;
(2) To pay regular visits to places where those deprived of their liberties or those under protection are held; to deliver the reports related to such visits to relevant agencies and organizations, and to disclose them to the public when considered necessary by the Board; to examine and evaluate the reports regarding visits made to such places by boards/ committees that monitor prisons and detention houses, provincial and district human rights boards and other relevant individuals, agencies and organizations. The government agencies and the relevant bodies have the responsibility to assist and facilitate the course of these visits when necessary.
c) The Legal Department:
(1) To submit opinions and give recommendations to relevant persons, agencies and organizations or to public upon request or on ex-officio basis with regard to draft legislation, legislation and practices concerning human rights and also with regard to other legal matters.
(2) To carry out duties assigned to the law departments according to the provisions of the decree law no.659 of 26/9/2011 on the Execution of Legal Services at the government entities having a special budget and at Public Administrations covered by General Budget.
(3) To cooperate with national and foreign agencies and organizations in matters concerning its duty area.
(4) To follow up due implementation by administration of judicial decisions determining a human rights violation
ç) The Training Unit:
(1) To work towards spreading awareness on human rights; to this end, to cooperate with relevant persons, agencies and organizations, to submit opinions and make recommendations.
(2) To contribute in preparation of the human rights contents of the curriculum of the Ministry of National Education and in establishment of human rights departments at universities in coordination with the Council of Higher Education and in determining the curriculum for such departments
(3) To carry out activities oriented to pre-service and in-service human rights trainings of public agencies and organizations
(4) To organize human rights training programs oriented to public and private agencies and organizations, if they so request
d) The External Relations and Projects Unit:
(1) To organize and execute activities concerning the external affairs of the Institution.
(2) To prepare and execute human rights projects
e) The Media and Public Relations Unit:
(1) To organize media relations and follow up the media
(2) To regulate and execute the public relations policy.
(3) To communicate the results of works oriented to fulfilment of the duties given to the Institution by this Law and other relevant legislation to the relevant institutions, and to disclose them to the public when deemed necessary by the Head of Institution.
f) The Information and Documentation Unit:
(1) To build a database and documentation centre on human rights matters
(2) To work in the field of information technologies
g) The Strategy Development Unit:
(1) To carry out the duties given to strategy development and financial services units by La w no. 5018 of 12/12/2003 on Public Financial Management and Control, Article 15 of Law no. 5436 of 22/12/2005 and other legislation.
ğ ) The Human Resources and Support Unit:
(1) To determine the personnel policy of the Institution, to carry out activities concerning the training of the personnel and to execute transactions related to personnel rights.
(2) To carry out the administrative, financial and social services of the Institution.
(3) To carry out duties regarding civil protection and mobilization.
(4) The units/departments specified under paragraph (1) shall work under the coordination of Human Rights Experts designated by the Head of Institution. The Human Rights Expert who will coordinate The Legal Department must have completed law internship.
(5) Working groups can be established from Institution personnel with the approval of the Head of Institution. The Groups shall work under the coordination of the personnel assigned by the Head of Institution.
(6) The Institution may establish temporary or permanent boards with the participation of public agencies and organizations, non-governmental organizations and relevant experts to work on subject matters falling under the jurisdiction and mandate of the Institution.
(7) Principles and procedures concerning opening and establishing bureaus as well as their duties and powers and other matters shall be determined by the Council of Ministers upon the proposal of the Institution. The principles and procedures regarding the duties, powers other matters related to the functioning of the Bureaus are determined by the Board.
Hikmet Tülen was born in 10.03.1967 in Konya. He completed secondary and high school in Konya and graduated from Law Faculty of Ankara University in 1989.
He earned his master’ degree (1992) and his PhD (1997) at Selçuk University in the field of Public Law and served at Law Faculty of Atatürk University in Erzincan as a research assistant between the years 1991 and 1997 and as a teaching fellow between years 1997 and 2002.
He was appointed to Constitutional Court as a rapporteur between the dates 03.07.2002 and 24.01.2013.
In 10.09.2012 he was elected as a member to the Board of National Human Rights Institution of the Republic of Turkey and 24.01.2013 he was elected as the Chairperson of the Institution by Board members.
He has a book and several articles published on constitutional law. He contributed, as an editor, to the books named Studies on Constitutional Jurisdiction I (AYM publ.,Ankara, 2006) and A gift for the 50th Anniversary of the Founding of the Constitutional Court (AYM publ., Ankara, 2012).
He speaks English as a foreign language. He is married with three children.
He was born in Hınıs/Erzurum on 1/1/1973. He attended primary and secondary schools in Hınıs. He was admitted to the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University in 1990 and graduated from the same in 1994.
He started working as the Assistant Expert at the Prime Ministry in 1997. He was assigned to examine the conformity of statutes, regulations of the Cabinet and also communiqués with the Constitutional Law and other norms at the General Directorate of the Laws and Decrees of the Prime Ministry. He was also in charge of the relations of the Prime Ministry with Council of State during his position at the said General Directorate.
He worked at the Directorate of Human Rights of the Prime Ministry between 2008 and 2012. He delivered training on human rights starting from 2008 and participated many panels, conferences and workshops as an invited speaker.
He has been conducting his thesis studies on the national human rights institutions.
He was elected as the member of Human Rights Board on 5/1/2015 and as the Second Chairman of the Human Rights Institution of Turkey on 26/2/2015 by the members of the Board.
He is married with two children.