Crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum,
are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of one or more human beings. They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder; extermination; torture; rape; political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion.”
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002. As of 1 February 2012, 120 states have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute.
Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the core international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression) in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. Thus, the majority of international crimes continue to go unpunished unless and until domestic systems can properly deal with them.
Turkey is not a signatory or have ratified Rome Statute. It is no wonder when you consider the developments of the last century in the region. “Crimes against humanity” are facts of daily life in Turkey since the forced migration of many ethnicities since late 19th Century.
In social media, hashtags requesting Turkey to sign The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED) were a trending topic lately. (#TCKayiplarSozlesmesiniIMZALA) ICCPED is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations and intended to prevent forced disappearance defined in international law, crimes against humanity. Although the military regimes in Turkey’s recent past were rather short-lived, the civilian governments were no picnic on their records on crimes against humanity.
Orhan Kemal Cengiz, in an article published in Today’s Zaman in Turkey gives a powerful profile of crimes against Turkish people by the state;
Under Article 7 of the Rome Statute, crimes against humanity mean, amongst other things, “murder” and “deportation or forcible transfer of population” when committed as part of widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population. This definition is a perfect definition of the crimes that were committed against Kurds in those years. And we also know that the draftees of the Rome Statute also intended to cover the atrocities committed within the borders of a sovereign country. I have not heard about any person being put on trial because of their role in the destruction of villages in southeastern Turkey. Amongst those tens of thousands murders, only 20 of them are now being addressed in a trial in Cizre, murders allegedly committed by Col. Cemal Temizöz between 1993 and 1994 in this district.”
In the same article he summarizes the reasons Turkish state is reluctant in becoming a signatory or ratifying the Rome Statute:
Interestingly enough, between 1992 and 1995, while Bosnian Muslims and Croats were being butchered, there was another serious crime committed in southeastern Turkey. During the ’90s more than 3,500 Kurdish villages were destroyed and tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings were committed. While most Turks welcome the delivery of Mladic to the ICTY, most probably they don’t know that those involved in this destruction of villages and extrajudicial killings committed crimes that are defined as “crimes against humanity,” and thus they could also be transferred to The Hague if Turkey became a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).”
In the light of its recent past it would be naive to expect Turkey to ratify neither the Rome Statute nor ICCPED since it would mean to transfer certain judiciary powers to International Criminal Court. In a country where “crimes against the free will of individual citizens” are committed by the state on a daily basis (although could not be considered as crimes against humanity), the potential of mass murders are never dismissed from the agenda as witnessed in the recent events at Uludere. ( See The Globe Times articles “Management by Proxy or “Social Media: A Means vs An End”” and “Division Bells“)
On the other hand, it is of vital importance in Turkey that the state should be a part in these agreements and internalize their “spirit” in local legislation. Although AKP government took a giant leap in the right direction in their first term, the party’s hunger for authority is shadowing these early developments.
It looks like the desire of Turkish people to become a partner in Global civilization faces another lapse in time. But one shall keep his chin up if any positive outcome will come out of the dark days of the present. Human rights train is one aimed in a long distance voyage, and watching it pass for almost a century puts Turkey (and its people) in a very dire situation within the league of nations.