Turkish gov’t systematically denies consular services to critics abroad

The undeclared policy being applied at Turkish consulates has victimized many Turkish nationals who are left without valid passports and unable to obtain official documents such as birth certificates and powers of attorney.

The refusal of counselor services to own nationals by Turkish embassies and consulates in a flagrant violation of Turkey’s international commitments as well as national laws has picked up a pace ahead of critical referendum on constitutional amendments.

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a monitoring group that tracks rights violations in Turkey, has been receiving reports of systematic campaign of denial of consular services to Turkish nationals who are perceived to be critical of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The arbitrary practices range from the seizure of passports and denial of passport renewals to not processing marriage and birth certificates and refusal of notary and document validation requests.

These arbitrary and unlawful practices that put Turkey in conflict with its international obligations under the conventions such as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

When probed on consular services on April 2016 by the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) that operates under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Turkey said “regardless of the statuses of Turkish citizens living abroad such as ‘worker/employer’ or ‘asylum seeker/refugee,’ all the acts related to their civil status, nationality, passport, and notarial acts are carried out by the Turkish General Consulates and Consular Sections of Embassies of the Republic of Turkey.”

That statement turns out to be false given the fact that so many reports SCF has received about refusal of consular services by Turkish embassies and consulates to Turkish citizens living abroad. In one case, a Turkish citizen living in Paris was denied an affidavit for parental consent for processing a passport application for a family member back in Turkey. The consular office initially said computer networks were down so she could not process the affidavit. The consulate eventually said it won’t grant the affidavit after the applicant made repeated inquiries over time. SCF decided to keep the applicant’s name as confidential for safety reasons. In a similar case, another applicant in Washington D.C. was denied notary services.

Turkish citizens living in Nigeria, reported multiple cases of service denials by Turkish consulates for various services including birth registry and passport renewals. Turkish consulate-general in Rome was also among reported to have engaged in these unlawful practices. SCF received reports from Asian country Sri Lanka where Turkish consular officers have started rejecting applications for all kinds of consular services from Turkish expats who are believed to be critical of Erdoğan.

Among the most targeted include members of Hizmet movement, a civic group that was inspired by the US-based Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen whose teachings focus on science education, volunteerism, community involvement and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Gülen is a vocal critic of Erdoğan on pervasive corruption in the government and Turkish President’s support for armed radical Jihadists in Syria.

Kurds, Alevis and leftist groups were also targeted in what appears to be a mass-scale persecution campaign perpetuated by the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) against government critics.

SCF has learned that the consul generals are instructed by Turkish capital to implement this undeclared policy of refusal of services to critics. Afraid of being named and shamed by Turkey’s partners and international organizations, consulate generals are also ordered to decline requests by rejected applicants to receive a written document explaining why the services were denied. In one such case, an applicant told SCF that he asked the name of the consular officer who engaged in such a practice but the officer declined to reveal his identity. The officer also admitted that he was under strict instructions from Turkish Foreign Ministry to not produce any document detailing the reasons for the refusal.

SCF calls all Turkish citizens abroad to report the abuse of consular functions in Turkish embassies and consulates to the UN offices in respected countries or inform the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. The host countries’ foreign ministries should also be made aware of these practices.

March 2, 2017


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