Canadian senator demands accountability for Turkey’s human rights violations

Canadian Senator Leo Housakos has called on Canada and the international community to hold Turkish officials accountable for their alleged human rights violations targeting people accused of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, Turkish Minute reported.

In a speech given in the Canadian Senate on Tuesday, Housakos shared the harrowing stories of Mesut Kaçmaz, Meral Kaçmaz, Murat Acar and Candan Acar, four Turkish-Canadians who were victims of torture and arbitrary detention. The two families sought refuge in Canada after fleeing prosecution in Turkey.

Housakos spoke about the targeted sanction submission filed with Global Affairs, asking the Canadian government to impose sanctions on 12 Turkish officials.

The Turkish officials were accused of crimes committed against Gökhan Açıkkollu, a teacher who died in custody after being detained over links to the Gülen movement; the Kaçmaz family, who were illegally deported by the Pakistani government to Turkey; and the Acar family, who were renditioned from Bahrain to Turkey.

Following a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, Açıkkollu was detained on July 24, 2016 on trumped-up charges of coup plotting and terrorism and remained in police custody for 13 days, during which time he was subjected to both physical and psychological torture until he died.

The Kaçmaz couple and their two daughters were abducted from their home after midnight in Lahore on Sept. 27, 2017 and illegally deported by the Pakistani government to Turkey just two days before their scheduled appearance before a Pakistani court. In June 2018 the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Turkish government to immediately release the couple.

The Acar family was renditioned from Bahrain on Oct. 5, 2016 to Turkey, where they were arbitrarily detained on similar charges as the others, due to alleged links to the Gülen movement. The Bahraini police had raided their home and handed them over to the Turkish police despite the family being under UN protection.

The Gülen movement is a faith-based group inspired by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the US. The group is accused of perpetrating the failed 2016 coup by Ankara, which has designated the movement as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the attempted coup or any terrorist activity.

The Canadian senator highlighted that the human rights situation in Turkey is appalling, stating that since 2016 the Turkish government has detained over 300,000 people, including thousands of prosecutors and judges, and shut down more than 2,000 institutions and 131 media outlets.

He added that there is evidence that detainees are tortured and raped, and hundreds have died in prison. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Human Rights Committee have repeatedly found Turkish officials responsible for serious human rights violations, Housakas said.

In his speech Housakos also thanked the Kaçmaz and Acar families for sharing their stories and being brave enough to speak out against the abuses they suffered.

Former NBA player Enes Freedom tweeted his appreciation for Housakos’ speech, thanking the Canadian government for standing against human rights violations in Turkey. Freedom also thanked the Kaçmaz and Acar families for being brave enough to share their stories and called Housakos and international human rights lawyer Sarah Teich “the voice of the voiceless.”

Earlier this month, the Kaçmaz and Acar families, currently residing in Canada, shared their experiences with Canadian lawmakers while Freedom, Teich and barrister Michael Polak called on the Canadian government to add 12 Turkish officials to the sanctions list.

Freedom and Teich last month spoke on a program titled “Power and Politics” on CBC, stating that one of the prosecutors responsible for the bounty offered by the Turkish government for information leading to Freedom’s apprehension in January is among the 12 Turkish officials they are asking to be sanctioned.

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