The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has called on the Turkish government to immediately release Mesut Kaçmaz and Meral Kaçmaz, a couple that was abducted from their home after midnight in Lahore on September 27, 2017 and deported illegally by the Pakistani government to Turkey just two days before their scheduled appearance before a Pakistani court.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has released its 16-page opinion concerning Mesut Kaçmaz and Meral Kaçmaz and their two daughters.
The UN body called on Turkey to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mesut Kaçmaz, Meral Kaçmaz and the two minors without delay and bring them into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The UN body also called on the government of Pakistan and the government of Turkey to accord Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz and the two minors an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, including for the impact on their psychological integrity from having been arrested, secretly detained and deported.
The abduction of Kaçmaz Family has been reported by the UN body as follows:
“The source reports that, on 27 September 2017, at around 2.10 a.m., the Kaçmaz family home in Lahore was raided by about 15 “officers” in plain clothes, including several female officers, who provided no identification. According to the source, the officers arrested the family using pushing and shoving, including Mr. Kaçmaz, who expressed his protest against the raid. Mrs. Kaçmaz, who had been lying on the floor, was pulled to her feet by two female officers. The two minors cried loudly and were carried out by their arms and legs and later slapped. The source alleges that, when a neighbour saw the disproportionate force used on Mrs. Kaçmaz, he protested and was arrested. The officers provided no reasons for the arrest. They did not search the house.
“According to the source, the Kaçmaz family and the neighbour were forced into pickup trucks. They were dressed only in their pyjamas and not allowed to wear shoes. The officers blindfolded them and later slipped hoods over their heads, including on Mrs. Kaçmaz and the two minors. They handcuffed the neighbour and tightened a cloth strip around the wrists of Mr. Kaçmaz, who continued to protest and received blows to his face. They travelled for about 30 minutes to what is believed to be a military cantonment. The officers informed the neighbour that his name was not on their list and that they would set him free. He was blindfolded and driven back to his housing complex.
“The source alleges that the Kaçmaz family was kept at an unknown location with opaque windows. They were prevented from going outside and did not see daylight for 17 days. Two officers, who indicated that they were from the Pakistani Counter-Terrorism Department, were placed in charge of them. During the last night, the officers told the family that they would be taken to Islamabad for a meeting at the Turkish Embassy and at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to solve the situation, and that they would then return to their home in Lahore and continue their lives as normal. The officers reassured them that they would not be turned over to the Turkish authorities.
“On 28 September 2017, associates of the Kaçmaz family filed a writ petition with the Lahore High Court, requesting that Mr. Kaçmaz and his family members be released and not deported to Turkey. In an order of 28 September 2017, the judge directed the Deputy Attorney-General to provide information on the case and ensure that Mr. Kaçmaz and his family would not be deported before the next hearing.
“During the hearing of 16 October 2017, the Lahore High Court was informed by the Deputy Attorney-General that the Kaçmaz family had not been deported from Pakistan by any agency or department under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, including the Federal Investigation Agency. The Ministry of the Interior also stated in its report to the Court that the names of the members of the Kaçmaz family, as per the order of the Lahore High Court, had been included in the Exit Control Lists since 12 October 2017.
“According to the source, the petitioners’ counsel informed the Lahore High Court that Mr. Kaçmaz, along with his three family members, had been forcibly deported on 14 October 2017, despite the court order staying their deportation. The counsel submitted a contempt petition against the Government of Pakistan. The Court was also requested to stay the deportation of additional Turkish citizens teaching at Pak-Turk schools and colleges, and to restrain authorities from harassing them.
“The source reports that the Kaçmaz family was forcibly deported on 14 October 2017 and flown on a special, unmarked aircraft from Islamabad to Istanbul, Turkey. While Pakistani staff transported the family to the flight, there were only Turkish agents on board the aircraft. The family was removed from Pakistan without their passports or identification documents. The source alleges that, during the flight, Mr. Kaçmaz was verbally abused and ill-treated by the Turkish agents.
“The source alleges that, following their arrival in Istanbul, the family members were put into separate vehicles and taken to a police bureau at the terminal, where they waited for several hours, blindfolded and not allowed to speak. Mr. Kaçmaz was subsequently taken away. Mrs. Kaçmaz and the two minors were driven to a police station in Bakırkoy, and later to a hospital, where Mrs. Kaçmaz was given a health report. They spent the night in a detention room. A family friend came to the police station the next day and picked up the two minors, who are not currently deprived of their liberty. Mrs. Kaçmaz stayed at the police station and was taken to Ankara on a flight at 8.00 p.m.
“The source reports that, at the time of its communication to the Working Group, no further information was available about the situation of Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz, including as to whether any charges had been brought against them, or whether Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz had been brought before a judicial authority or granted access to legal counsel.
“The source is concerned that Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz have been placed beyond the protection of the law in Turkey and are at high risk of torture or other ill-treatment, unfair trial or other serious human rights violations, following their apprehension and expulsion to Turkey. According to the source, the couple is being held incommunicado and there is no news of their condition. The source submits that their deprivation of liberty is arbitrary.
In the light of the foregoing, the Working Group renders the following opinion:
“With regard to Pakistan, the deprivation of liberty of Mesut Kaçmaz, Meral Kaçmaz and the two minors from 27 September to 14 October 2017, being in contravention of articles 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 2 (3), 7, 9, 13, 14 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, III and V;
“With regard to Turkey, the arrest, detention and deportation of the Kaçmaz from Pakistan to Turkey, as well as the deprivation of liberty of Mesut Kaçmaz and Meral Kaçmaz from 14 October 2017 to the present, and the deprivation of liberty of the two minors upon their arrival in Turkey on 14 October 2017, being in contravention of articles 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2, 2 (3), 7, 9, 13, 14 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are all arbitrary and fall within categories I, III and V.
“The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be: (a) for the Government of Turkey to release Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz immediately; and (b) for the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Turkey to accord Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz and the two minors an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, including for the impact on their psychological integrity from having been arrested, secretly detained and deported.
“The Working Group urges the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Turkey to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz and the two minors, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of their rights.
“In accordance with paragraph 33 (a) of its methods of work, the Working Group refers the present case to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, for appropriate action.”
Mesut Kaçmaz, who graduated from the Department of Urdu Language and Literature in Konya’s Selçuk University in Turkey, has been involved educational and cultural activities in Pakistan since 2007. Mesut Kaçmaz, married to Meral Kaçmaz who is a teacher like himself, is the father of two daughters.
Mesut Kaçmaz worked as the principal of the Pak-Turk Clifton Boys School. The school has so far passed out hundreds of graduates and represented the country successfully by receiving medals at international science olympiads. Back in 2008, the New York Times covered the constructive role of the PakTurk schools and their achievements by quoting Mr. Kaçmaz.
The witch hunt launched in 2013 in Turkey targeting the alleged followers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a massive corruption and bribery scandal of Turkish government ministers and their family members on December 17-25, 2013 has even affected Pakistan. Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan put the pressure on the Pakistani government to close the educational and cultural institutions alleged to be affiliated with the movement and to deport the Turkish citizens working in these institutions.
In November 2016, the Pakistani government did not extend the visas of these teachers and their families and ordered them to leave the country within three days. Teachers moved courts and objected the decision. During this period, they also applied to the UNHCR and were issued asylum seeker certificates placing them under the UN protection.
In May Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Gabon, Kosovo, and Myanmar handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request even though some of those victims already had refugee status with the UN like Kacmaz family.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.