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The Turkish government must take immediate steps to abolish the system of village guards, which has given rise to some of the most serious human rights violations in southeast Turkey, and continues to present an obstacle to the return of displaced villagers in that area.

Dear Minister,

The Turkish government must take immediate steps to abolish the system of village guards, which has given rise to some of the most serious human rights violations in southeast Turkey, and continues to present an obstacle to the return of displaced villagers in that area. The village guard corps has been roundly condemned by official Turkish and international inquiries, and recent judgments at the European Court of Human Rights against the Turkish government for right to life violations which arose from abuses committed by village guards. The Turkish government remains worryingly equivocal in its statements about the future of the village guard corps.

For more than eighteen years Human Rights Watch has been receiving reports of violations by village guards—murders, rapes, robberies, house destruction, and illegal property occupation, among others. We have received, from various sources, numerous complaints relating to village guards, not all of which we have confirmed first-hand.

Nevertheless, the prevalence of such complaints and incidents suggests that there are serious and unresolved problems. In the past three-and-a-half years village guards have killed at least thirteen unarmed villagers, and attacked many others. Continuing violations are severely hindering resolution of the problem of widespread internal displacement in the southeast: the threatening presence of village guards is deterring displaced people from returning to their former homes; village guards occupy displaced persons’ houses or land; and displaced villagers fear that on return they will again be put under pressure to join the village guards. There is no legal requirement to join the village guard corps, but security forces often make village guard service an informal requirement for return. Returning villagers who join expose themselves to attack by the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Any returning villager faces the ever present threat of violence from village guards who may carry out reprisals for attacks by forces of the PKK, pursue blood feuds and tribal conflicts, or engage in any of the other forms of prevalent criminal behavior ranging from rape to theft. It is no coincidence that rates of return are particularly low in areas such as Þýrnak province, where the village guard system is particularly entrenched.

These patterns of abuse were documented in Human Rights Watch’s October 2002 report Displaced And Disregarded: Turkey's Failing Village Return Program. The purpose of this letter is to draw your government’s attention to the persistence of these problems, and to urge the abolition of the village guard corps as recommended by bodies within the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

This letter also expresses our grave concern at the deportation of our researcher Jonathan Sugden in April 2006, apparently as a result of his inquiries concerning abuses by village guards in Bingöl province, and invites your Ministry to give an explanation for this unfortunate episode.

Continued pressure to join the village guard system
Despite official claims to the contrary, some displaced persons are being told that they may only return to their homes in the southeast if they take up arms for the state. In April 2004 former residents of Uluköy village near Kýzýltepe in Mardin province, who had been forced out of their homes in 1993 because they refused to join the village guards, were given permission by the local governor to return to their village. However, when they attempted to return, local gendarmerie told them they would have to agree to village guard service. Also in April 2004, according to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, villagers returning to Altýnsu village, near Þemdinli in Hakkari province, reported that a local gendarmerie commander held a meeting at which he demanded that returning villagers become village guards.

When villagers returned to Ayrancýlar in Bitlis province in 2003, the local gendarmerie began again to demand that if they were to stay in the village they must serve as village guards. In March 2005 the villagers reported that gendarmes from Bitlis left six weapons in the village, insisting that villagers take responsibility for them or leave. According to Gýyasettin Gültepe, president of the Van branch of the human rights nongovernmental organization Göç-Der, who interviewed them, the Ayrancýlar villagers had reluctantly accepted the weapons, thereby exposing themselves to increased risk of attack by the PKK.

In 1994 security forces drove 160 families out of Dönertaþ village, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, because they had refused village guard service. In recent years the inhabitants have begun to return, and by 2005 fifty families were permanently resident in the village. According to the Van branch of Göç-Der, gendarmes are again insisting that Dönertaþ villagers become guards. For example, villager Cevdet Taþdemir reported that the gendarmes had told him that he must leave the village after he refused to join the village guards. He and his family of seven had moved from Istanbul all the way back to Dönertaþ, relying on assurances from the government that villagers were now free to return.

Unlawful occupation of land by village guards
Human Rights Watch is still receiving reports that village guards use their armed force and favored status to confiscate land, or usurp the use of it, from neighboring non-village guard communities. The examples given below may well be representative of a broader pattern.

Selyazý, near Çýnar, Diyarbakýr province
According to an account given to Human Rights Watch by an inhabitant of Selyazý, about seventy-five people from the village were forcibly evacuated in 1990 and made homeless. Other families from the village decided to accept village guard service and were not evacuated, and they in turn invited other village guards from Mazidaðý in Mardin province to move to Selyazý. Village guards have occupied the houses and lands of the displaced, even though the displaced villagers have the ownership documents for the properties. Displaced Selyazý inhabitants attempted to plant crops on their lands in 2004 and 2005, but were attacked by the occupying village guards. The displaced villagers say that they have applied to the local and provincial governor for permission to go back, but that there has been no official response to their petitions.

Yukarýmezra, near Derik, Mardin province
In 2002 villagers from Yukarýmezra village, forcibly evacuated in 1991, began to return. On January 31, 2005, the villagers reported to the Diyarbakýr branch of the nongovernmental Human Rights Association (HRA) that village guards from nearby Sakýzlý village had seized Yukarýmezra’s grazing land. Yukarýmezra inhabitants said that they had complained to government officials, but the authorities had taken no action to restore the use of the land to the returning villagers.

Tepeli, near Ýdil, Þýrnak province
Village guards from Tepeköy in Þýrnak province are reportedly occupying Tepeli, a district of nearby Kuyulu village near Ýdil, and cultivating the surrounding fields. According to Halit Nerse, former headman of Tepeli, now living in Istanbul, Tepeköy village guards marched into the settlement in 1995 and ejected the inhabitants from their homes, instructing them to leave. Since village guards in the area had recently killed Þükrü Yýldýz, Ali Bozan and Mehmet Gül from the nearby village of Filfil, the Tepeli villagers felt that it would be dangerous to resist, and left. The village guards from Tepeköy lived in the Tepeli villagers’ homes, but when displaced villagers started to return in the Ýdil area in about 1999, the guards knocked down the original houses and, with the help of state funds, constructed new houses.

Hüseyin Seyitoðlu, legal counsel for the original inhabitants of Tepeli, stated that he had repeatedly applied, unsuccessfully, for a court order to halt the construction of new dwellings. The Tepeli villagers petitioned the authorities to remove the village guards from their property, also without success. In 2002 they applied to the local court for the recovery of their land based on notarized ownership documents. The local court, unusually, insisted on examination of the originals deposited at the local land registry office, but these were found to have mysteriously gone missing. The court consequently rejected the action for repossession, but this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2005, and the case is once again being heard by the Ýdil primary court.

Kýrkkuyu, Þýrnak province
The inhabitants of Kýrkkuyu village were forcibly displaced by security forces in 1994 when they refused to serve as village guards. According to displaced Kýrkkuyu villagers, village guards not only immediately occupied the vacant lands, but also attempted to have the land registered under their names. The original Kýrkkuyu villagers challenged this, and the issue is currently being examined by the local court. Meanwhile, the Kýrkkuyu villagers are unable to return home. A villager told Human Rights Watch in August 2005, “It is impossible to go back at the moment. The government is giving us no support or assistance, and the village guards consider us terrorists. It is a dangerous situation.”

Cevizli, Mardin province
Hasan Keren, forced out of Cevizli village in Mardin province in 1994, reported to Mardin HRA that since returning to his home in 2000, he and his family had been subjected to attacks by village guards who were unlawfully using their land. On January 29, 2004, following a dispute about grazing animals, Keren was beaten by village guards, resulting in injuries to his eyes, head and back that required hospital treatment and fifteen days recuperation. Keren reported the incident to the Mardin public prosecutor, who opened an investigation, which is apparently still pending at this writing.

Serespi yaylasý, near Kulp, Diyarbakýr province
On June 1, 2005, villager N.Y. (identity withheld) of Düzpelit hamlet, Baðcýlar village near Kulp, applied to Diyarbakýr HRA stating that village guards from Kulp had occupied the 5,625 hectare high pasture of Serespi (Teli Meskisi), owned by N.Y.’s family for more than a century. Since 1991 village guards have been renting the land out to a third party. When N.Y. attempted to use the land in 2005, he was threatened by relatives of these guards. In May 2005, while traveling to a wedding, N.Y. and his family were attacked by village guards, who shot and wounded a member of the party with a pistol. Two village guards were arrested in connection with the shooting; as of this writing it is unclear whether they are being prosecuted.

Recent attacks by village guards
Human Rights Watch has received many reports like the two immediately above of village guard violence ranging from beatings to shootings, some of them fatal. Most attacks arise from disagreements that are common in any rural community—land disputes, grazing problems, and other longstanding resentments—but where village guards are involved, the potential for violence is greatly increased. Guards are licensed by the state to exercise lethal force. In the aftermath of any incident where they transgress the boundaries of legitimate use of force, including lethal force, initial arrests are often followed by release, long drawn out proceedings and ultimate acquittal. In effect, guards often benefit from a degree of impunity.

The cases of the thirteen Kurdish civilians allegedly murdered by village guards in the past three-and-a-half years are outlined below. Eight of those killed were displaced villagers who had recently returned.

Yusuf Ünal, Abdurrahim Ünal, and Abdulsamet Ünal, Nureddin village, Muþ province
Yusuf, Abdurrahim and Abdulsamet Ünal of Nureddin village, Muþ province, were killed, apparently by village guards, on July 9, 2002. The Ünal family had been expelled in 1994 when security forces destroyed the village, but on July 1, 2002, the family had applied to the local governor and gendarmerie for permission to stay temporarily in their village to gather their hay crop. According to eyewitness Dilaver Demir, village guards came and argued with Yusuf Ünal, saying that he could not sell the hay. Village guards then beat Yusuf Ünal and attacked other members of the family. There was a melee, and Demir ran off with members of the Ünal family to nearby Konakkuran gendarmerie station. Gunshots were heard, and Yusuf, his son and his brother were killed. Fourteen village guards were arrested in connection with the killings; over three years later the trial continues.

Nezir Tekin, Ikram Tekin, and Agit Tekin, Uðrak village, Diyarbakýr province
Under pressure to join the village guard system, the Tekin family of Uðrak village, near Bismil in Diyarbakýr province, left their homes in 1994. As soon as they left, neighboring village guards moved into the Tekin family’s houses, and began farming their fields. The Tekin family moved back to Uðrak on September 26, 2002, but within hours of their return village guards attacked the family, killing Nezir Tekin, Ikram Tekin, and five-year-old Agit Tekin, and gravely wounding six other members of the family. Ten village guards were charged with the killings and are now on trial at Diyarbakýr Criminal Court No. 3.

Þemsettin Sarýhan, Þamil Sarýhan, Remzi Sarýhan, Mustafa Sarýhan, and Ali Sarýhan, Akpazar village, Aðrý province
Five village guards are currently on trial at Doðubeyazýt Criminal Court for the killing of Þemsettin, Þamil, Remzi, Mustafa and Ali Sarýhan in pastures near the village of Akpazar, near Diyadin in Aðrý province, on July 31, 2004. The Sarýhans had not been displaced. They seem to have been targeted for their longstanding refusal to serve as village guards. According to a survivor, the Sarýhans were grazing flocks in the high pasture when two village guards came to their tent and invited Þamil Sarýhan to tea. An argument broke out, and the two village guards machine-gunned the family.

Mustafa Koyun, Tellikaya village, Diyarbakýr province
On September 25, 2004, the son of a village guard from a nearby village shot and killed Mustafa Koyun and wounded Mehmet Kaya in Tellikaya, near Çýnar in Diyarbakýr province. Koyun and Kaya, who were not village guards and, according to fellow villagers, not armed, challenged guards who were grazing stock on their cultivated land. An argument ensued, and the son reportedly shot them with his father’s weapon. He is now on trial for the murder of Mustafa Koyun. Relatives of Mustafa Koyun who left Tellikaya before the killing told Human Rights Watch that they had been forced to abandon their homes by intense pressure from village guards.

Selahattin Günbay, Düzce village, Mardin province
The most recent reported killing by a village guard was that of thirteen-year-old Selahattin Günbay on March 19, 2005. Selahattin Günbay and two of his relatives were grazing sheep near the village of Düzce, near Nusaybin in Mardin province, when village guards warned them not to graze their animals in that area. When Selahattin Günbay took no notice, one of the village guards shot him dead with an automatic weapon. Four village guards were arrested in connection with the killing and are awaiting trial.

The following cases of non-lethal violence by village guards have also been reported:

Abdurrahman Aydýn, Baðgöze village, near Eruh, Siirt province
Abdurrahman Aydýn reported to Siirt HRA that on October 20, 2004, village guards from a neighboring village took him from his house to a nearby pasture. There, a waiting gendarmerie officer accused Aydýn of sheltering PKK militants. According to Aydýn’s account, when he threatened to complain to the HRA, the gendarmerie officer started to beat him, and ordered the village guard to kill him. Village guards ordered Aydýn to undress. When he refused, they tore his clothes, and attempted to strip him naked. He resisted, and they beat him with the butts of their rifles and kicked him, as a result of which he was bedridden for three days. Aydýn later learned that his cousin Resul Aydýn had been subjected to a similar assault. Siirt HRA president Vetha Aydýn (no relation) confirmed that she saw cuts and bruises on the faces of Abdurrahman and Resul Aydýn when they came to make a complaint.

Kamer Þemci, Aktaþ settlement of Kaynarpýnar village, near Karlýova, Bingöl province
Kamer Þemci complained to Bingöl HRA that on the night of November 29, 2004, five village guards from Taþlýçayýr village, near Karlýova in Bingöl province, accompanied by five plainclothes persons (one of whom he recognized as a gendarmerie officer), raided his house in Aktaþ settlement of Kaynarpýnar village. Þemci reported that one of the village guards immediately accused him of feeding armed militants, insulted him, and threatened to break his teeth. The group fired shots into the ground between his wife and his son Öðren Þemci, and beat his son and another villager, Mehmet Açýð. The village guards and plainclothes officers occupied Þemci’s house for two days while carrying out an operation in the area. During that time, the guards demanded food and threatened violence if Semci’s family refused. Þemci made a formal complaint, but learned in February 2005 that the local prosecutor had decided not to prosecute.

Nebahat Mert, Naima Sayak, Songül Mert, Belkýs Biçer, Zübeyde Mert, Aziz Mert, Atik Mert, Yakup Mert, Özal Sayak, Ýsmet Sayak, and Celalettin Mert, Burmataþ settlement of Hasanova village, near Karlýova, Bingöl
According to a complaint made to Bingöl HRA, village guards from Taþlýçayýr were again accompanied by gendarmes when they raided Burmataþ on June 12, 2005, claiming that Burmataþ villagers were sheltering PKK militants. The gendarmes and village guards allegedly beat Nebahat Mert, Naima Sayak, Songül Mert, Belkýs Biçer, Zübeyde Mert, Aziz Mert, Atik Mert, Yakup Mert, Özal Sayak, Ýsmet Sayak, and Celalettin Mert. The female villagers were reportedly insulted, and the security forces fired shots at random around the village, killing livestock. No PKK militants were found in the village, and no villagers were arrested. The villagers submitted a complaint to a local sub-governor, but according to the villagers this official tore up their complaint. A complaint to the local gendarmerie allegedly produced a threat from the gendarmerie to burn the village.

Kazým Þen, Kumgölü village, near Silvan, Diyarbakýr province
Kazým Þen reported to Diyarbakýr HRA that on February 17, 2005, two provisional village guards whom he knew drove up to his house and told him that their father had summoned him. According to his account, the village guards took him to a deserted valley 1.5 kilometers from the village and beat him severely. Þen complained to the gendarmerie, but was told that “if you do not abandon your complaint against these people we will find a way to have you found guilty and punished.” Kazým Þen dropped his complaint, but later decided to make the attack and threats public.

Ýshak Tekin, Taþoluk village, near Varto, Muþ province
Ýshak Tekin believes that village guards were responsible for an attack that he barely survived in October 2004. Ýshak Tekin lived in Karapýnar village, near Varto in Muþ province, until the mid-1990s when security forces successively drove out any family that refused to join the village guard system. Tekin moved to the nearby settlement of Taþoluk, where he had some land. Taþoluk had accepted village guard service, and most of the male adult population was either a voluntary or professional guard, but Ýshak Tekin did not enroll.

Between 1999 and 2004, a period when the PKK carried out far fewer attacks, about fifteen members of Tekin’s family took advantage of the relative stability to move back to Karapýnar. In 2002 a village guard from Taþoluk was killed, apparently in a PKK attack. Ýshak Tekin was never under suspicion for that killing since he was far away at the time it occurred, but after that date he was repeatedly threatened and physically attacked by village guards or relatives of village guards. On the evening of October, 2004, Tekin was machine-gunned as he was parking his car in his garage. He was hospitalized for three months with extensive injuries: the attack blinded his right eye and deprived him of the function of both hands. He still has bullets and bullet fragments in his neck and nose. Witnesses reported seeing five people running away from the scene of the shooting. Four members of a village guard family were arrested, two of whom are on trial at Muþ Criminal Court (the other two were minors, and were released). The fifth person identified, the adult son of the village guard shot in 2002, and whom Ýshak Tekin believes is himself an enrolled village guard, fled abroad.

Other criminal behavior
The village guard system is also implicated in thousands of acts of common criminality, and would deserve to be shut down on those grounds alone. Over 23,000 village guards were dismissed for involvement in crime in the first ten years of the village guard system. Over the first twelve years of the system, 296 village guards were involved in cases of manslaughter and murder, and 78 were involved in the abduction of women.

Narcotics arrests of village guards are occasionally reported—for example, two village guards were found with five kilograms of heroin (with a wholesale value of U.S.$750,000 according to the U.S. Drugs Enforcement Agency) at Bölücek village in Þýrnak in 2002—but the national press tends not to report the subsequent trials. Nevertheless, Turkish government officials have admitted that village guards are very involved in the narcotics trade. According to an Interior Ministry statement, reported in Cumhuriyet (Republic) of January 26, 1999, 1,073 village guards were convicted of drugs smuggling between 1985 and 1999.

National and international condemnation of the village guard system
Human Rights Watch first called for the abolition of the village guard system in 1987 when our report entitled State of Flux: Human Rights in Turkey documented early emerging patterns of brutality and corruption among village guards. Since then, numerous intergovernmental bodies and Turkish parliamentary commissions have examined the village guard system. The corps of village guards is so intrinsically dangerous, corrupt and corrupting, that all these bodies concluded that the solution is to dismantle it.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly’s 1995 parliamentary commission on political killings and the Grand National Assembly’s 1998 parliamentary commission on internal migration called for an end to village guard service. The Grand National Assembly’s 1997 parliamentary commission on the Susurluk affair found that “[t]he existence of the feudal structure in the east and southeast … and the social problems created by the provisional guard system created the circumstances for tribes to get involved in narcotic and weapons smuggling. The Provisional Village Guard System must be abolished, and until that time, it should be reduced and kept under tight control.” The April 2006 report on the Þemdinli bombing prepared by the Human Rights Commission of the Grand National Assembly stated: “The state is responsible for the safety of the citizen. The legitimate security forces of the state are the police and armed forces. By this measure, the village guard system was a mistake. Because under the village guard system, the citizen began to be viewed as either on the side of the state, or as a potential threat to the state, at least among local people. Some village guards seized other people’s property and abused their status in disputes between tribes, and thereby increasing tension in the region. It was also observed that some village guards assisted the terrorists.”

The United Nations (U.N.) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said in 2001, “The village guard system, to which a large number of extrajudicial killings have been attributed, should be disarmed and disbanded without delay.” The Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons said in 2002, “The Government should take steps to abolish the village guard system and find alternative employment opportunities for existing guards. Until such time as the system is abolished, the process of disarming village guards should be expedited.”

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe concluded, in 2002, that Turkey should “abolish the village guard system.” The European Union has likewise identified the village guard system as an issue that must be resolved if safe returns of displaced persons are to be made possible throughout the region. The European Commission’s 2004 Regular Report on Turkey’s progress toward accession described the village guard system as one of the “major outstanding obstacles preventing IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons] from returning to their villages…” It continued, “Very few Syriac origin citizens have attempted to return from abroad, in particular, because they face harassment from the village guards and the gendarmerie. The issue of the village guards remains unresolved. Notwithstanding the judicial procedures against village guards involved in murders, official figures state that 58 416 village guards are still on duty (as opposed to 58 551 last year [2003]) … In many cases, authorization to return to villages is reportedly conditional on the willingness of the returnees to serve as village guards.”

The European Court of Human Rights has made numerous judgments against Turkey with respect to village guard abuses. In May 2005, in Acar and Others v. Turkey, the court found the Turkish government responsible for violating the right to life of six villagers from Çalpýnar near Midyat in Mardin province on April 14, 1992. In December 2004 eight village guards were sentenced to life imprisonment for the killings.

The Turkish government’s inaction
Despite the widely-held view that the village guard system must be abolished, fifteen successive Turkish governments have failed to take action to bring an end to the murders and other criminality of the village guards. The village guard system remains in place and virtually unchanged since its foundation.

The village guard system combines lethal force with a convenient level of deniability. In some of the cases contained in this letter, individual village guards have been indicted and prosecuted, and in one case convicted and sentenced. But institutional responsibility for their crimes has been completely avoided. Village guards make up about 40 percent of the personnel under the gendarmerie’s control, and work under the command of gendarmes in the field but appear institutionally invisible. Village guards are not mentioned in Law 2803 on the Organization, Duties and Powers of the Gendarmerie, nor do they appear on the organogram of the Gendarmerie General Command’s website.

To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, at no time in the past twenty years has Gendarmerie General Command ever answered for the scores of murders committed by village guards operating under their command, even when their responsibility for the crime has been confirmed by Turkish and international justice. On April 20 1992, village guards from Kutlubey near Midyat in Mardin province stopped a minibus carrying villagers from nearby Çalpýnar who had refused village guard service. The guards lined the villagers up and shot them, killing five men and one child. In December 2004 the Turkish Supreme Court confirmed sentences of life imprisonment imposed on eight village guards from Kutlubey. In May 2005, the European Court of Human Rights found the Turkish government responsible for violations of the right to life, and failing to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the deaths and injuries. Gendarmerie General Command made no statement of apology or even acknowledgement of the killings.

Your own government is inconsistent in its statements about the village guard system. In 2002 you assured the then Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Dr. Francis Deng, that although village guards could not be made summarily redundant, “the Government was in the process of disarming village guards and was finding them alternative employment opportunities.” In August 2004, however, you told the Turkish parliament that “the abolition of the village guard system is not being considered.” By May 2005 your government had apparently revised its view again, because the new U.N. Representative on internally displaced persons, Dr. Walter Kälin, said that in his meetings with the administration he had been “impressed by the willingness shown by his interlocutors to approach the problem of internal displacement with an open mind, to develop a new strategy on internal displacement that addresses all obstacles to return, including the role of village guards.”

In November 2004, a senior foreign ministry official informed Human Rights Watch of plans to establish a new agency to coordinate policy and activities on behalf of IDPs, including developing a policy for demobilizing the village guard corps. Over a year later, however, the new agency has yet to be established, and no steps have been taken toward abolition of the guard system.

The strong impression given is that your government wishes to appear responsive when challenged by international bodies about village guard abuses, but is as unwilling as its predecessors to take any actual steps.

Human Rights Watch urges you to act upon the 2002 recommendation of the Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons by abolishing the village guard system, commencing with immediate disarmament, and continuing with the provision of alternative employment opportunities for existing guards.

In addition, Human Rights Watch urges that all property confiscated or occupied by village guards as a result of the forcible evacuation of villagers since the 1980s is returned to its pre-conflict owners.

Human Rights Watch also urges that the perpetrators in the above cases be brought to trial. In addition to this, the gendarmerie command must respond to the pattern of violations with internal investigation of gendarmerie officers responsible for village guards who have committed grievous violations while acting under their authority and control. Disciplinary proceedings and judicial proceedings should be initiated against officers found responsible for negligence or collusion in such acts. These investigations should begin with violations of the right to life identified in rulings at the European Court of Human Rights such as the killings at Kutlubey village.

Gendarmerie General Command should publicly account for its failure to restrain the abuses of village guards over the past two decades. Investigations should be made in respect of gendarmerie officers who were responsible for village guards convicted of murder and other serious crimes, and disciplinary or criminal sanctions applied where appropriate.

Most observers agree that abruptly shutting off government funding to the village guard communities would be counterproductive, and several have suggested that the money that has previously been spent on the village guards might continue to go to the southeast region in the form of a rural support program. These are constructive proposals provided, firstly, that village guards are swiftly disarmed, and secondly, that any system of rural support is non-discriminatory, in accordance with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and should be used to support village guard and returning displaced persons alike in the encouragement of industry, agriculture, and a return to peace.

We look forward to hearing your government’s response to these reports of violence, intimidation and violations of property rights by village guards, and in particular any plans for early abolition of the village guard system.

Deportation of Human Rights Watch’s researcher
In March 2006 our researcher Jonathan Sugden travelled to Karlýova, Bingöl province, in order to seek further information concerning allegations of abuses by village guards and gendarmerie officers in that district. He immediately went to Karlýova Gendarmerie, gave them details of the allegations and said that he would like to learn their views about the alleged episode. The gendarmes took him immediately to the Police Headquarters where he was told that he would not be permitted to conduct any research in Karlýova because he had not received permission from the local governor. As you know, no such permission is required to conduct research. Mr. Sugden tried to get an appointment with the Bingöl governor, but was told that this would be impossible for at least two days. He attempted to conduct interviews in Tunceli, but was turned back at the provincial border by gendarmerie.

On the morning of April 12, 2006, Mr. Sugden was detained by regular police in the town of Bingöl, in southeastern Turkey and deported on the grounds that he had entered Turkey on the wrong visa. As your ministry must be aware, over the past seven years, Jonathan Sugden has entered Turkey more than twenty times in order to carry out research for Human Rights Watch—each time on exactly the same three month visa that he had on this occasion. On two occasions, indeed, he met you personally at the Interior Ministry. He had also previously confirmed with the Turkish embassy in London that this visa was appropriate for this work.

Mr. Sugden was treated with courtesy while in police custody, but the fact remains that his researches were interrupted. Furthermore, in the days following his departure, various Turkish newspapers published allegations about supposed activities on his part that would have been not only illegal but also serious infringements of the impartiality which is fundamental to our work. Those newspapers said that they had been given the “information” by “diplomatic and security sources.”

Mr. Sugden and I will be visiting Ankara on 19 June. We have written to the Turkish Ambassador in Washington seeking meetings with your ministry on that day. We would be grateful for an explanation of the deportation, and to learn what your ministry can do to set the record straight.


Holly Cartner
Executive Director
Europe and Central Asia division

Mr. Abdullah Gül, State Minister responsible for human rights
Orgeneral Fevzi Türkeri, Gendarmerie General Command
Ambassador Hansjörg Kretschmer, E.U. representation in Ankara
Ms. Aslýgül Üðdül, Director for Political Affairs, Avrupa Birliði Genel Sekreterliði, Ankara
Mr. Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
Mr. Walter Kälin, Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons

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