On 3 November, Cemil Cicek, Turkish Minister of Justice, declared that Turkey and the European Union had different views on the question of minorities and “do not speak the same language” on this subject. “We must not engage in a discussion that would challenge the unity of Turkey” he hinted during a meeting of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
Mr. Cicek, who is also the government's spokesman, affirmed that a “senseless discussion” on the country's unitary values could only be of advantage to “extremists”. He also accused certain circles in Turkey, particularly “intellectuals” (but without naming them) of wanting to exploit the question of minorities.
Mr. Cicek's remarks come the day after a warning formulated by the Turkish Army on minority rights in Turkey, which is hoping for the green light for opening negotiations for membership of the E.U. from European leaders in December. The N° 2 man of the Armed Forces General Staff, General Ilker Basbug, had severely criticised European efforts to present the Kurds as a minority. “We do not approve that citizens, who do not consider themselves as a minority, be openly and implicitly described as such” declared the Assistant Chief of the General Staff during a press conference.
He was referring to a report of the European Commission on the state of Turkey's progress, published on 6 October together with another document recommending the opening of negotiations with Ankara.
Turkey only recognises religious minorities (Christian or Jewish) in the context of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which opened the way to the creation of the Republic of Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
The General Staff's N° 2 welcomed the legislative amendments passed by the Turkish Parliament for granting (very limited) cultural rights to the Kurds, but he made the point that these efforts should not go any further. “Turkey is a unitary country” he stressed, accusing, without naming them, four Kurdish former Members of Parliament of the Party for Democracy (DEP) of wanting to “politicise” the question of minorities. “If cultural rights are diverted at the political level, this situation can lead to a polarisation and a division” according to General Basbug.
In the last few years, Turkey has adopted some important democratic reforms and has promised the Europeans fully to put them into practice.
Furthermore, General Basbug called on the courts to act against Abdullah Ocalan's lawyers, who he considers are acting as Ocalan's emissaries. He stressed that his numerous lawyers, who visited him once a week, are acting in total contradiction with their professional code by transmitting, via the press, his “directives” to his organisation. “This is a crime, it is not acceptable” he insisted, deploring the fact that about forty legal investigations into these defence lawyers had not been carried through to the end. “We are waiting for these investigations to be completed” he added.
Political reforms or no, in Turkey it is still the Armed Forces General Staff that dictates basic political orientations regarding the country's security and foreign policies to the civil government — the Kurdish and Cyprus questions remaining its private domain …
Ever since the electoral commission announced, on 21 November, that the first multi-party General Elections to be held in the country for half a century would take place on 30 January 2005, there have been innumerable calls for postponing the elections from the Sunni Arabs. However, Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi insists that the poll will take place as planned, even in areas where fighting persists. The Iraqi interim government, the electoral Commission, the Shiite chiefs, the Iraqi National Council and the United States, (principal foreign power in Iraq) have decided against postponing the elections.
In a communiqué published on 29 November regarding the issue of insecurity, cited by the parties and organisations that wished for a postponement of the poll, the Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi National Council (the interim parliament) Jawad al-Maliki, considered that the government had enough time to overcome the last centres of tension in the country. Postponing the elections would be “a message of encouragement to the terrorists and incite them to further acts" of violence he insisted. “We believe that a postponement would disturb the political process”, Mr. Maliki said, with reference to the transition from a nominated government to institutions resulting from elections.
Adnan Pashashi, a former Foreign Minister, an influential Sunni Arab public figure of the previous Iraqi Government Council, considered that a postponement of three months would enable the politicals to convince the Sunni clergy and other groups to think again about their call to boycott the poll. “I think that it will not be in anyone's interest to leave important segments of the Iraqi population outside the peace process”, declared Adnan Pashashi, leader of the Independent Democrats, on 26 November.
Eight Sunni groups also called for the postponement of the elections unless certain of their demands were met, such as a modification of the law decreeing that the country was a single constituency. Under the present arrangement, all Iraqis will vote for the same lists of candidates, and the seats will be distributed proportionally to the votes won by each party, 50,000 votes being needed to win a seat. The Sunni Arabs think that this would disadvantage them.
Article 2 of the Provisional Constitution stipulates that elections can, in no case, take place later than 31 January 2005. It nevertheless makes the point, in an appendix, that the Council of Ministers, with the unanimous approval of the Presidential Council, can issue decrees that have the force of law until they are cancelled by a properly elected executive.
On 30 January, the Iraqis will, on the same day, vote for 275 delegates to the Provisional National Assembly, for 51 members of the Baghdad Provincial Council and representatives to 18 regional councils. Kurdistan will also elect the 111 members of its autonomous regional Parliament, which has been in existence since 1992. Some 14 million electors will be called to the polls for the first multi-party elections since 1954.
In Kurdistan, 18 Iraqi political parties, meeting for two days at Dokan, near Suleimaniah, issued a statement on 19 November stressing the necessity of holding the elections. “The parties meeting here, insist on the necessity for holding elections so as to give legitimacy to the Iraqi authorities and to build an democratic state of laws” they stated in a joint communiqué to the press. “It is imperative to introduce a healthy political and security climate that would allow the holding of free elections and the participation of all Iraqis, safe from the pressures of terrorism” the communiqué added.
Both the principal Kurdish movements, Massud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as well as the Communist Party, the Islamic Party, Ahmed Shalabani's Iraqi National Congress (CNI), and the Supreme Council of the Islamic revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) were present at this meeting.
Furthermore, the participants, at the request of the Kurdish leaders, Messrs. Barzani and Talabani, accepted the postponement of the election for the Kirkuk Provincial Council and called for the application of Article 58 of the Provisional Constitution that calls for the return of the Kurdish refugees to this oil-producing city. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, rapidly expressed his opposition to the Iraqi Kurds' aspirations on this subject. “They (the two principal Kurdish parties) have announced such a demand. But it is surely not for them to decide. This decision is the prerogative of the Iraqi National Council (the provisional Assembly)” he declared on 19 November. Mr. Gul pointed out that the elections should take place “at the appointed time” and reaffirmed the importance for Turkey, a country neighbouring Iraq, of the safeguarding of the territorial integrity and political unity of that country.
The Kurds of Iraq affirm that the city was essentially inhabited by Kurds until the 50s and the subsequent Arabisation campaigns conducted by Baghdad, during which tens of thousands of Arabs were settled in Kirkuk. They hope that a referendum be organised in the city before the poll to ask for the city's incorporation in autonomous Kurdistan.
In Baghdad the National Agreement, the political party of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, announced on 25 November the constitution of a broad alliance for contesting these first elections in 50 years.
Despite calls to boycott the elections by Sunni Arab organisations, nearly 220 “political entities” have already applied to take part in the poll, announced the President of the Electoral Commission, Abdel Hussein al-Hundawi on 22 November. “We have received 228 requests from political entities to take part in the polls and we have already registered 180 of them, but the work is continuing” he stated. For his part, Carlos Valenzuela, head of the UN electoral team, who is providing technical help to the electoral commission, considers that “despite the violence, there is a will by people to go and vote because they know that it is the only way to get out of the chaos even if the confusion doesn't end with the poll”.
On 4 November, the Iraqi electoral commission announced that Iraqis living outside the country could vote in the general elections. The Commission's spokesman, Farid Ayar, specified that the government intended installing polling stations in those countries that sheltered a substantial Iraqi community, but the details, number, location and countries had not yet been settled.
On 22 November, the countries bordering on Iraq approved the final declaration of the Sharm esh-Sheikh International Conference on Iraq which brought together the Foreign Ministers of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait as well as Egypt, the host country, the Arab League, and the Arab “troika” on Iraq consisting of the present president of the Arab League (Tunisia), his predecessor (Bahrain) and his successor (Algeria), who is due to host the next Arab summit in 2005. The conference also included members of the G8, and the European Union.
The international Conference on Iraq, which brought together the all the big names of world diplomacy from 22 to 23 November, at Sharm esh-Sheikh (Egypt), had as its objective the “establishing a realistic (international) consensus” nearly two years after the United States' controversial going to war in 2003.
On the eve of the Sharm esh-Sheikh Conference, an agreement was reached to cancel $40 billion of Iraq's debt to the Paris Club and the date of the Iraqi General Elections was set for 30 January. Thus, in Paris, the 19 member countries of the Paris Club reached an agreement to cancel, in three stages, 80% of Iraq's debt to them. The agreement on the figure of 80% was wanted by the USA and Great Britain who, as supporters of a big gesture, suggested a reduction of 95%. But Russia, France and Germany, which, after Japan, were Iraq's biggest creditors, proposed only 50%. The US Secretary of the Treasury welcomed “a veritable event, that shows that the trans-Atlantic alliance remains a strong power for good in the world”. In Berlin, he invited those creditors who were not members of the Paris club to imitate the latter.
Here are the principal points of the final communiqué of the Sharm esh-Sheikh Conference on Iraq.
The participants to the Conference:
- Condemn “all the acts of terrorism in Iraq” as well as the kidnappings and assassinations of foreigners and Iraqis working for the reconstruction of the country, humanitarian workers, diplomats and journalists
- Call on the interim Iraqi government to act with “determination” in the face of terrorism
- Call on all parties to avoid the use of excessive force and to show restraint to avoid harming civilians
- Call on all countries to prevent the arming, financing and transit of terrorists
- Call on all neighbouring countries to control their borders with Iraq
- Stress that the mandate of the US-led coalition in Iraq is not “of unlimited duration” and that the international community must continue to help Iraq to prepare its security forces to take over from it
- Stress the necessity of integrating the maximum of peaceful forces in the Iraqi political process and exhort the Interim government to hold a meeting of the Iraqi political organisations before the 30 January elections
- Express their support for the holding of elections by the end of January
- Stress the “preponderant role” of the United Nations in helping prepare the elections and in reaching a consensus for drafting a new Constitution
- Call on the international donors to keep their promises on Iraq
- Call on Iraq to create equitable conditions for attributing reconstruction contracts
- Stress the “importance” of bringing members of the fallen regime, accused of war crimes in Kuwait or crimes against humanity in Iraq, to trial
- Welcome the agreement of the Paris Club, which covers 19 Western creditors, to cancel over $31 billion of Iraq's debt
On 30 November, the Foreign Affairs Commission of the European Parliament recommended the opening of negotiations for Turkey's joining the European Union, on condition that Ankara carries its democratic reforms through to the end. The Commission adopted a report that considers that the participants to the 17 December European Council must “open negotiations with Turkey without undue delay” if all the conditions have been met.
Fifty members of the Commission voted for the resolution, 18 against and 6 abstained. They adopted the report by Mr. Camiel Eurlings (PPE-DE, NL) who, before coming to this positive conclusion, listed all the conditions that still had to be fulfilled. And, provided that their reservations are taken into account, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) call on “the European Council to open negotiations without useless delays”. Indeed, it will be during their meeting in Brussels on 17 December that the Heads of State and Governments have to decide.
As the European Commission had done in its advice of 6 October, the MEPs stressed, in this report, that it was a matter of an open process: “The opening of negotiations shall be the starting point of a long term process, which, by its very nature, is an open process which does not, a priori, automatically lead to membership; nevertheless, (…) the objective of negotiations is that Turkey should become a member of the E.U. but (…) the achievement of this ambition will depend on the efforts of both parties; thus, membership is not an automatic consequence of starting negotiations”.
Although the MEPs welcomed “the process of political reform in Turkey and the constitutional and legislative changes” that have been adopted, Turkey, like every other candidate, must “satisfy the political criteria” for membership, set at Copenhagen in 1993. “Especially in the area of human rights and all the fundamental freedoms” the resolution reads, then adding “both in theory and in practice”. And if, in the course of negotiations, “serious and persistent” breaches of human rights occur, the MEPs ask that the Commission recommend “after consultation with the European Parliament, the suspension of negotiations, in the spirit of the European Union Treaty”.
It should be noted that the idea of offering Turkey a “privileged partnership” rather than membership in the event of its not conforming to the Copenhagen criteria was rejected by the Commission but may be proposed when the report is voted on at the plenary session in December.
Amongst the most serious breaches of human rights is certainly the issue of torture, regarding which the MEPs called on the Turkish authorities “fully to apply the principle of “zero tolerance” at all levels and in all aspects to eradicate torture completely”. Similarly, they hoped that the reforms undertaken in the country's legislative and judicial systems be put into practice and completed, in particular “six important sections of the legislation”, which should be adopted and applied in practice before the start of negotiations. The MEPs were referring to the Commission's recommendations, which wanted the law on association, the new Penal Code and the law on intermediate level courts, which have been passed, really come into force, and that, as well as the penal code, there should be legislation to create a judicial police force and that the law on the carrying out of sentences and other measures be adopted and applied.
They rejoiced at the release of Leyla Zana, Sakharov Peace Prize winner, who must, nevertheless, still go through a third trial, which the MEPs wished to be “honest and equitable”. In the wake of all this, the MEPs demanded “the immediate release of all persons were have been sentenced for the non-violent expression of their opinions in Turkey”. Regarding the Kurdish community, the MEPs invited “the Turkish government to take more active initiatives to favour reconciliation with the Kurdish forces that had chosen to abandon the use of arms”. They also demanded Turkey “to put an immediate end to all discriminatory actions against (…) religious communities” and to protect the fundamental rights of all the minorities and Christian communities.
One of the fears frequently formulated regarding the possible membership of Turkey related to the unbalancing that this great country could occasion to certain common policies. Thus, in its October advice, the Commission indicated that “long transitional periods would probably be necessary. Moreover, in certain areas, such as structural policies and agriculture, specific measures could be required and, with regard to free circulation of workers, permanent safeguards could be envisaged”.
However, the MEPs toned down these restrictive provisions. For them, it was essential that “the commission's recommendation of negotiating long transition periods (…) should not have a negative impact on Turkey's efforts to align itself with the community's advances”.
Turkey's possible membership would have serious consequences, both for the Union and for Turkey — but also reciprocal advantages. The MEPs stressed “the importance of the opinion of the citizens of the EU regarding the eventuality of an agreement on membership” and they called on the Commission and the Turkish government to conduct campaigns “to inform their citizens (…) and favour mutual understanding”.
At international level, if Turkey was invited, in a general manner, to entertain good neighbourly relations and to abstain from “threats and military activities liable to create tension”. The MEPs hoped that it would pursue its efforts at reconciliation with Armenia and open its borders with that country.
But it was above all about Cyprus that the MEPs expected efforts from the Turkish authorities. “While respecting the democratic will of the Greek Cypriot community” — which voted no in the referendum on reunification — the MEPs regretted that a solution had not occurred but called on “the Turkish authorities to maintain their constructive attitude to find (…) an equitable solution for negotiation on the basis of the Annan plan and the principles that founded the EU”. They considered that a “withdrawal of Turkish forces is a necessary stage on the way to easing the tensions”. And, since negotiations for membership were taking place between Turkey, on the one hand, and the 25 member states of the European Union, including Cyprus, on the other, the MEPs considered that “the opening of negotiations naturally presupposes Turkey's recognition of Cyprus”.
On 5 November, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi was the guest of the meeting of EU Heads of State and Government at Brussels. The discussions were about the Sharm esh-Sheikh Conference on Iraq due on 22/23 November. However, the leaders remained cautious about their approach pending a clear knowledge of the attitude of the second Bush administration.
France showed many signs of its irritation at the Iraqi Prime Minister, guilty of having made unpleasant remarks about French policy on Iraq. Jacques Chirac did not attend the meeting between the EU leaders and Iyad Allawi late in the morning, after the Brussels summit meeting. Officially the French President had flown to Abu Dhabi to present France's condolences to Sheikh Khalifa ben Zayed al-Nahayan, the new President of the United Arab Emirates, on the death of his father, Sheikh Zayed. The President's office announced that the French President, who had “close and friendly relations” with the late Sheikh Zayed, would have a meeting with the new President, who was his heir.
However, European diplomats tend to explain this absence as a deliberate wish by France to shoe its disapproval of remarks made by the Iraqi Prime Minister criticising the lack of commitment of the French authorities in Iraq. In particular, he had implied that France was hesitant because of the two French hostages, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, held by islamist groups in Iraq. He also declared that France would not be spared from terrorism, despite its opposition to the war in Iraq. The French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, had already tartly retorted to Allawi on 2 November in Brussels, after a meeting with his European opposite numbers. “In the tragic and extremely serious situation in which Iraq finds itself, I think that everyone, starting with the Prime Minister of that country, has better things to do than indulge in polemics of this sort”, he had declared during a press conference. Michel Barnier, however, met his Iraqi opposite number, Hoshyar Zebari, in Brussels on 5 November.
The Iraqi Prime Minister took advantage of a stopover in Rome to ram his point home, alongside his ally Silvio Berlusconi, by calling on the countries “that have, so far, just been spectators” to come out of their inaction and help Iraq rebuild itself. He also met, the next day, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the head of the EU's foreign affairs, Javier Solana, as well as the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and visited NATO Headquarters. The Dutch Foreign Minister, Bernard Bot, whose country filled the EU Presidency that month, for his part, announced at a Press conference on 4 November, an aid plan for Iraq of 16.5 million euros. This plan aims to participate in the financing of Iraqi elections, planned for January, and the UN protection force envisaged for this event was well as supporting the development of a judicial system.
Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, also flew to Jordan on 30 November, the first leg of a tour that will also include Germany and Russia. He, nevertheless, denied rumours that he would take advantage of his stopover in Amman to meet opposition groups or exiled Iraqis. “I will be making a tour of several countries, this week, to develop relations with major allies like Jordan, Germany and Russia” declared Mr. Allawi.
The head of the Iraqi Government wanted to deny rumours of future negotiations, or even a conference, with opposition groups or Iraqi exiles. “I have no intention of having such a meeting or such a conference” he stressed. There will be “no Amman conference”. However, he recognised that his government was in favour of having “those who have not committed crimes involving themselves in the political process” in Iraq, where General Elections are due on 30 January.
There is public indignation after the Turkish police shot down a Kurdish 12-year old child, Ugur Kaymaz, and his father on 21 November, outside their home in the town of Kiziltepe, in Mardin Province, The child, found on his knees, riddled wit 13 bullets, mostly in the back, was unarmed. He was helping his father, a lorry driver, also unarmed, who was preparing to go to Iraq. Over twenty bullets were fired at the two bodies, according to the first information on the investigations.
As is their habit, the local authorities explained that it was an “operation against armed terrorists of a Kurdish group”. But Human Rights defence organisations and local Members of Parliament consider that the father and his son were unarmed civilians, killed either by accident or as an act of summary execution.
The news, given out by the semi-official Turkish news agency Anatolia, and taken up by France's AFP, stated that “two presumed Kurdish rebels, suspected of wanting to carry out attacks against government targets, were killed during clashes with the Turkish security forces in South-Eastern Turkey, the local authorities have stated”. “The presumed rebels were armed with two AK-47 assault rifles and two hand grenades the communiqué specified, affirming that they were planning to attack the local police and gendarmerie stations”. “Since the ending, last June, of a unilateral cease-fire decreed after the capture of its chief Abdullah Ocalan in 1999, the PKK has been multiplying its small-scale clashes with the Turkish Army”. To date, there has been no correction by Agence France Presse (AFP). Which is too inclined to take official propaganda as gospel and to distribute the official propaganda at the expense of the victims and of the truth …
The US Army lost 134 men in Iraq in November and remains confronted with the guerrilla in the Sunni Arab towns of Fallujah and Mossul, while the violence continues to take its daily toll of civilian victims. The American Army offensives in Fallujah and elsewhere in the country have made this month of November one of the most lethal for the American troops since the intervention in Iraq in March 2003.
In Fallujah, where a little more than half the 250 to 300,000 population had fled the town, the US troops found about twenty “atrocity sites” used by the insurgents to imprison, torture and kill hostages, announced Major Jim West of the US Marines on 20 November. Prisons and torture chambers set up in houses, containing burnt, mutilated and rotting bodies, give a frightening picture of an implacable regime imposed on Fallujah by the islamists aver the previous eight months. Indeed, the mutilated bodies and the accounts of the inhabitants encountered by the US Army enables a description to be draw of the stifling universe in which this Sunni bastion, 50 Km West of Baghdad, was forced to live. According to the inhabitants, it was forbidden to sell music, videocassettes or, obviously, alcoholic drinks. The offenders were flogged, while people suspected of collaboration with the Americans were simply liquidated.
Even though expressing their anger at the destruction caused by the Americans, inhabitants also expressed their satisfaction at the overthrow of the Mujahiddeen regime.
At least 34 foreign hostages, including three Americans and several Iraqis, have been killed by their kidnappers this year. According to Major West, over 1,400 people have been taken into detention as a result of the Attack on Fallujah. Over 400 of them have been released after interrogation. According to the US Army, about 1,200 insurgents and over 50 US soldiers were killed during this offensive.
Furthermore, on 7 November, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, decreed a State of Emergency over the whole of Iraqi territory except Kurdistan, for the next 60 days. “After the government has exhausted all means (to establish calm), Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has decreed a State of Emergency over all Iraqi territory except Kurdistan, for a period of 60 days” stated Mr. Allawi's spokesman, Thaer al-Naqib to the press. Mr. Allawi explained that his decision was necessary to ensure the elections, planned for January. “This is a strong message to show that we are serious . We want to make the country safe so that elections can take place peacefully” he declared. The decree will allow the authorities to impose cease-fires, ban meetings, inspect communications and make arrests.
This declaration comes at a time when 21 Iraqi policemen were executed in cold blood at dawn on the same day, by 200 armed men who carried two police stations by storm at Haditha and Haqlaniya, 200 Km West of Baghdad. On 6 November, 26 policemen and national guards were killed by the explosion of four car bombs and attacks on police stations in Samarra, 125 Km North of Baghdad.
Teheran and Baghdad swapped accusations of laxity in the anti=terrorist struggle at the start of a conference on security in Iraq, held in Teheran on 30 November. This conference brought together the Ministers of the Interior of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, and Egypt. Moreover Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi will meet 120 Iraqi public figures in exile during a conference in Amman on 8 December, stated one of the co-ordinators of this encounter.
On 26 November, following press revelations, UNO admitted that Kojo Annan, the son of the UN General Secretary, had continued to be paid by the Swiss company Cotecna until February 2004. A UN spokesperson explained that, while it was known that Kojo Annan had continued to receive his monthly pay from Cotecna for some time after he had left the company, this was supposed to have stopped at the end of 1999, not last February, i.e. just before the scandal had been revealed in a Baghdad paper. On 29 November, Kofi Annan stated he was “very disappointed and surprised” that his son, Kojo, should have been paid for several years by a former employer, a company that had participated in UNO's “Food for Oil” programme in Iraq. This programme is, today, the centre of an enormous corruption scandal and is the subject of several investigations, including one by an independent commission appointed by Mr. Annan and led by Paul Volker, a former President of the US central bank.
“Of course, I understand the perception problem this creates for UNO, the perception of a conflict of interest or dishonesty. I can understand that”, said Kofi Annan. “But,” he added, “my son works in a different field to myself. He's an independent businessman. He is of age — I don't interfere in his activities and he doesn't interfere with mine”. Restating that he “does not take part in the attribution of contracts” by UNO, Mr. Annan suggested to the journalists that they should put their questions directly to his son or to the companies concerned. “At the same time I call on everyone to be patient until Mr. Volker has finished his work” he concluded.
Mr. Volker is, himself, under pressure by part of the US Congress to communicate the documents he has collected to date to it. So far Mr. Volker has politely refused these demands. Two weeks ago, Norm Coleman's permanent investigation sub-commission (Editor's Note: Norm Coleman is the US Senator charged with investigating the UN Food for Oil programme in Iraq) claimed to have discovered proof that Saddam Hussein's government had collected over 21.3 billion dollars (13 billion euros) of illegal revenue by by-passing UNO's sanctions against Iraq, including the Food for Oil programme.
The Food for Oil programme, in force from December 1996 to November 2003 aimed at attenuating the impact of the international sanctions on the Iraqi population. It authorised Iraq to sell a limited quantity of oil to buy food and humanitarian supplies (mainly medical). But it led to the biggest humanitarian aid scandal in UNO's history. From 1999 to 2003, the Cotecna company was under contract to UNO to inspect the goods entering Iraq under the terms of this programme.
On 30 November, Turkey was found guilty by the European Human Rights Court of violating freedom of expression for having, 1997, imposed a suspended fine on a Kurdish human rights activist, who had made a speech hostile to the authorities. The Court awarded Zübeyir Ozkaya, 49 years of age, 3,000 euros moral damages, considering that a suspended fine for “inciting the people to hatred and hostility on the basis of a distinction based on membership of a social class, a race or a religion” constituted a violation of his freedom of expression.
The petitioner had been sentenced for having publicly declared in March 1997, on the occasion of the “Newroz” Festival (The Kurdish New Year) at Çanakkale (North-Western Turkey) that “the Republic of Turkey is one of the most exterminator States history has ever known”. The history of Turkey, Mr. Ozkaya had added is “a history of tyranny and genocide (…), in which cultures, languages and systems of thought of peoples have been degraded. The keystone of the official ideology is formed of the denial of the being and culture of the Kurdish people, including its mother tongue”.
The European judges pointed out that “while certain passages of his speech painted a most negative picture of the Turkish State and give the account a hostile connotation, they in no way exhorted the use of violence” and thus considered his sentence “disproportionate”.
Turkey was also found guilty by the European Human Rights Court of violating freedom of expression in six cases concerning five people sentenced for their pro-Kurdish stands.
Medeni Ayhan had been sentenced twice for “separatist propaganda” for speeches made in 1993, then again in 1996 form a book entitled “The Kurdish philosopher Ehmede Xani”. Zeynap Baran was sentenced in 1997 to two years imprisonment for having edited a brochure for the Foundation of Solidarity with Kurdish women and for Research on Women's Problems, of which she was President. Mehmet Dicle had been sentenced to two years jail for having “incited hatred and hostility by pointing out the existence of discrimination based on membership of a race or religion” in an article published in 1996. Ozkan Kalin, chief editor of the weekly Yeni Ulke, was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1993 for “separatist propaganda” for reprinting a press communiqué of the European office of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). Esref Obadasi, for his part, had been sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1997, when he was a leader of HADEP (People's Democratic Party for a party bulletin.
I all six cases, the European Court considered that “the motives upheld by the Turkish Courts could not, in themselves, be considered sufficient grounds for justifying the interference in the petitioners' rights to freedom of expression” and found Turkey guilty of violation of Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the European Human Rights Convention.
The European Court awarded 12,000 euros moral damages to Mr. Ayhan, 5,500 to Ms. Baran, 5,000 to Mr. Dicle, 13,000 to Mr. Kalin and 3,000 to Mr. Obadasi.
Furthermore, on 2 November, the European Court found Turkey guilty of torture inflicted on one of its citizens in 1995 in the course of a nine-day detention for his “presumed links with the Kurdish separatists”.
Abdulsamet Yaman was arrested on 3 July 1995 by officers of the Adana Police Directorate, According to him, during his nine days detention he was immersed in cold water, naked and blindfolded. He had also been forced to climb onto a chair while his armed were tied to the piping in the ceiling. Electric cables were fixed to his body, including his sexual organs, before the chair was taken away, leaving him hanging and subjected to electric shocks. From time to time his torturers stopped the electric shocks to twist his testicles.
Mr. Yaman told the Court that he had been interrogated on his links with the OKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and his reasons for helping victims of torture to apply to the European Commission on Human Rights.
The Court awarded Abdulsamet Yaman, an Adana regional leader of the pro-Kurdish HADEP Party (Peoples Democratic Party) at the time of the events, 17,700 euros damages and 8,659 euros costs. In addition to violation of Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention (forbidding torture) the Court upheld charges of Violations of Articles 13 (Right to effective recourse) and 5 (Right to freedom and Security).
It also found Turkey guilty in two other cases of torture inflicted on two petitioners during their detention in 1996. They were awarded 26,000 euros damages and 2,000 euros costs. In both cases, the Court condemned the fact that the Turkish government had provided it with no facts regarding the arrest of the petitioners that might enable it to assess the reasonable character of the measure.
In a 41-page report published on 4 November entitled ÒIraq: the State on testÓ, Human Rights Watch considers that the coalition forces mere unable to prevent people from stealing thousands of official documents in the months following the US invasion in March 2003. The US-led Coalition forces in Iraq did not safeguard official document of the Saddam Hussein regime, nor evidence connected with the mass graves, declared the Human Rights defence organisation that considered that this ÒneglectÓ could affect the trial of the former dictator and his subordinates. Nor were the Coalition forces able to prevent people searching from their relatives in over 250 mass graves found all over the country Ñ which also contributed to destroying a quantity of evidence on these sites. ÒThe Coalition forces then failed to set up the professional expertise and help needed to ensure adequate classification and exhumation proceduresÓ, declared Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of the organisationÕs Middle East and North Africa division. ÒIt is highly probable that key items of evidence have been lost or become suspectÓ, she added in a communiqué.The organisation calls on the interim Iraqi government to give °&Mac176;urgent attention°± to the evidence still available, in particular the mass graves of the Saddam era. °&Mac176;This evidence will be crucial in the coming trial, but it will be equally crucial for the Iraqis when they try to establish exact records of the atrocities from which they suffered under the Baath regime°± stressed Sarah Whitson.Apart from ex-dictator Saddam Hussein, eleven of the principal leaders of his regime and of the Baath party, including Ali Hassan al-Majid, alias °&Mac176;Chemical Ali°± are also due to be tried. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, hopes that the trial will begin soon, but the American leaders consider that they must be patient, to ensure that the trials are run in accordance with international criteria.
On 22 November, the UN High Commission for Refugees indicated that it had no more news of over a thousand Iranian Kurds, who had sought refuge in Iraq and who had left their camp near Ramadi, West of Baghdad, because of fighting in the area. °&Mac176;The HCR has received alarming reports indicating that nearly a third of the refugees of the Al Tash camp in Iraq had fled because of fighting round Ramadi last week°±, declared the HCR spokesman Ron Redmond. °&Mac176;For the moment we do not know where they are°± he added.
The Al Tash camp sheltered 4,200 Iranian Kurds. A police station located inside the camp had been attacked last week and water and electricity had also been cut in the camp, the HER explained.
According to Mr. Redmond, the refugees may have gone towards Iraqi Kurdistan or tried to reach the Jordan border, westwards, but there has been no news of any refugees arriving in Jordan.
However, on 24 November, 200 Iranian Kurdish refugees were transferred from the Rusheished refugee camp on the Jordan-Iraqi border to Amman, in preparation for their journey to Sweden, which has accepted to give them asylum, according to Dana Abu Sham, head of the Iraqi office of the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM). This operation, covering 202 Iranian Kurdish refugees, was effected with the help of the Ignited Nations HCR, declared Mrs. Abu Sham. According to her, two planes of the Jordan national company, Royal Jordanian, have been chartered for their journey to Stockholm.
One hundred and twenty three other refugees, who have also secured asylum in Sweden, will travel to Sweden on 8 December next, this official indicated.
These refugees, previously settled in Iraq, had reached the Jordan-Iraqi border at the time of the Americano-British intervention in Iraq in March 2003. Jordan had refused them entry to its territory, and they had remained in the Rusheished camp, in the middle of no mans land, in very precarious conditions.
On 8 November, a Dutch court forbade the extradition of Nuriye Kesbir, former leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK, renamed Kongra-Gel), demanded by Ankara, that accuses her of being responsible for attacks on military objectives. The grounds for the refusal were that Turkey violates Human Rights. Nuriye Kesbir had declared that she feared a biased trial and being tortured were she extradited to Turkey. The court considered that he Ministry could not have made a °&Mac176;reasonable decision°±, since the Dutch diplomats, like the Human Rights defence organisations, state that, despite the reforms of its legal system, °&Mac176;Turkey continues to violate human rights°±. °&Mac176;Considering what the reports say on the human rights situation in Turkey °™ and noting that these reports have not been denied °™ the Minister should not have been satisfied by vague assurances by the Turkish Embassy that Turkey would observe its international commitments°± in this case, said the rulings on this case.
In September, after the Netherlands Supreme Court had given him the green light, the Dutch Minister of Justice, Piet Hein Donner, had authorised the extradition of Mrs. Kesbir, accused of at least twenty-five attacks in Turkish Kurdistan between 1993 and 1995. Mrs. Kesbir held important positions in the leadership of the PKK, in particular as assistant to Osman Ocalan, the brother of Abdullah Ocalan, the former PKK chief, who has been serving a life sentence in Turkey since 1999. However, she has always denied being involved in attacks and states that she was only concerned with women's questions. Nuriye Kesbir was arrested at Amsterdam-Schipol airport in September 2001. She had asked the Netherlands for political asylum but had been refused. This decision was taken °&Mac176;after having obtained from the Turkish authorities the express guarantee that (Mrs. Kesbir) would benefit from an equitable trial, in accordance with international treaties°± the Minister of Justice had explained at the time, while nevertheless authorising an appeal before a court in The Hague.
The Netherlands Ministry of Justice °&Mac176;is studying this ruling and has not yet decided whether to appeal°± declared a Ministry spokesman, Wim Kok.
Elsewhere, thirty-eight people have been taken in for questioning in Holland, after the dismantling of a network suspected of °&Mac176;training activists of the Kurdistan Workers' Party to commit terrorist attacks°±. Of these, 29 were arrested during a raid on a camp in the countryside, according to the national Public Prosecutor. The enquiry revealed that about twenty people had received, in this camp at Liempde (near Eindhoven, in South-Eat Holland), °&Mac176;a training to prepare themselves for the PKK's armed struggle in Turkey, by carrying out terrorist actions°± according to a communiqué by the Netherlands national Public Prosecutor. “We have indications that those taking part would have been sent to Armenia, at the end of their training, to take part in PKK actions” according to the Prosecutor's Office.
A dozen houses were searched, and the police seized night vision glasses, documents, and one firearm. The PKK being on the European Union's list of terrorist organisations, the persons arrested will be charged with terrorism, according to the same sources.
In 1999, the most prestigious Dutch daily, NRC Handelsblad, estimated that there were between 60 and 70,000 Kurds in the Netherlands, of whom 45,000 were originally from Turkey.
On 2 November, a delegation of Greens, partners in the coalition government in office in Germany, met Turkish members of Parliament in Ankara to evaluate the progress in democratic reforms in Turkey, with a view to Turkey's joining the European Union. The delegation included the co=president of the ecological party, Claudia Roth, the other Green co-President, Reinhardt Buetikofer, as well as the two co=presidents of the parliamentary group in the Bundestag (the parliament's lower house) Katrin Goering-Eckardt and Krista Sager.
The delegation held discussions with members of parliament of the opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) before being received at the Parliament by the President of the Human Rights Commission, Mehmet Elkatmis.
Mrs. Roth particularly expressed her anxiety to Mr. Elkatmis, of the Justice and Development Party (AKP, an offshoot of the islamist movement) in office, regarding accusations made by the Turkish Association for Human Rights regarding the existence of “systematic torture” in Turkey. Mr. Elkatmis stated that the Turkish government had a “zero tolerance” policy against torture, while admitting some isolated cases. “Some cases can, unfortunately, occur as there are some sadistic people”, he declared, but adding that his practice can exist “even in Germany”.
Turkey has undertaken a vast programme of pro-European reforms and is required by the E.U. to apply them fully, as its leaders are due to decide, in December, whether or not to open negotiations for membership.
The Greens also held discussions with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, as well as with the Human Rights Defence organisations as the representatives of religious minorities in Istanbul before visiting Diyarbekir and Sirnak on 4 November, where they enquired into progress in the rights of the Kurds.
The German members of Parliament also investigated allegations of the use, by the Turkish Army, of German tanks against the civilian population in the area during the fighting against the PKK. According to a German TV broadcast, tanks sold by Germany to the Turkish Army had been used in the Kurdish areas, in violation of a treaty signed by Berlin and Ankara in 1994.
The Turkish government denied the information given by a former East German officer on a TV network. The German government had stated that it had no information of this having been the case. The 1994 treaty, concluded between Germany and Turkey authorised the delivery of these tanks for national defence, on condition that they were not to be used in the Kurdish populated border regions. The delegation members, thus visited the towns of Sirnak, Cizre and Idil, on the Turkish borders with Iraq and Syria, but did not observe any deployment of these tanks in the area during their stay in the region.
On 30 November Iran boaster of a “great victory” over the Americans after the decision of the IAEA not to refer their case to the UN Security Council. It reaffirmed, however, that uranium enrichment would be resumed in time, and that it would never renounce it. “Contrary to what the Americans claim, the Islamic Republic of Iran has not renounced the nuclear fuel production cycle (which includes enrichment) and will never renounce it and will eventually do it” declared the head of the Iranian nuclear programme, Hassan Rohani.
On 29 November, the International Agency for Atomic Energy, UNO's non-proliferation watchdog agency took note of Iran's decision to suspend uranium enrichment and so refrained from referring the matter to the UN Security Council, as the US has been demanding for months, the threat of which hung over Iran till the last minute. The Governing Council of the IAEA thus adopted a resolution on the freezing of uranium enrichment in Iran. The resolution adopted includes a phrase stressing that the suspension of enrichment activities represents a “voluntary” measure and is not an obligatory one, as Iran had wished, and does not provide for any recourse to the Security Council.
The Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed el-Baradei, avoided questions by journalists who asked him if this commitment was enough. He contented himself with pointing out that the centrifuges were not working at present. In the event of any “changes”, we would inform the Security Council, he stated.
Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment was secured by Germany, France and Great Britain in exchange of a promise of an agreement on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation with the European Union. The negotiations for such an agreement are due to start in December. “Negotiations with the Europeans will be complicated, there will be high and low moments, but we will start negotiations with a sincere will to make them succeed. We hope the Europeans will do likewise, in which case we will achieve results”, stressed Mr. Rohani.
As from mid-December, the Iranians and Europeans should, according to Mr. Rohani, be working on an agreement on the fate of some 20 out of the hundreds pf Iranian centrifuges. Iran wants, for research purposes, the 20 machines being used for uranium enrichment to be exempted from the suspension. This demand, unacceptable to the Europeans, very nearly worked in favour of America's aims in the IAEA, until it was withdrawn.
On 19 November, the Turkish Minister for Fuel and Power, Hilmi Guler, announced that Turkey was planning to build three nuclear power stations, due to be operational by 2011, to avoid any possible fuel shortages. “We have plans for building three nuclear power stations that should start working, in succession, as from 2011” he stated, before evoking the possibility of fuel shortages after 2010-2011, which would oblige Turkey to depend on foreign resources. “We envisage ensuring eight to ten percent of our power requirements with nuclear energy”, he added, specifying that the stations would have a total capacity of about 4,500 megawatts.
Mr Guler stated that his Ministry gave priority to uranium as a fuel for its stations, though the use of thorium had also been envisaged. “We have about 230,000 tonnes of proven thorium reserves and 9,200 tonnes of uranium, but we are continuing to carry out prospecting” explained the Minister, who gave no date for publishing any invitation to tender and admitted that no site had been decided for the moment.
Mr Guler added that the government would invite the public sector to take charge of building the power stations, but that the State would intervene in the event of failure.
Turkey had already issued an invitation to tender for building one nuclear power station in Akkuyu Bay, on the Mediterranean coast, to which the American Westinghouse, the Canadian AECL and the French APL companies had responded. However, the project, which had aroused vigorous protests from Turkish environmentalist organisations and Greek and Cypriot diplomats, was abandoned in 2000 because of financial difficulties. The opponents of the power station pointed out that its site was located only 25 Km from a seismic fracture fault. Their arguments were reinforced after a force 6.3 Richter scale earthquake struck the neighbouring province of Adana, causing 140 deaths.
On 17 November, a British investigation concluded that the existence of “the Gulf War syndrome” was “indisputable”. This is a whole group of maladies that has affected certain veterans of the “Desert Storm” operation in 1991 and has been a source of polemics as much in Paris and Washington as in London. “They are indisputably ill because of the war”, stated Lord Anthony Lloyd of Berwick, a retired former judge who was charged with the task of examining the existence of this “syndrome” by the Royal British Legion, a semi-official organisation representing ex-Servicemen
According to this independent investigation, “all the epidemiological studies agree on the fact that the Gulf War veterans are twice as likely to suffer from health problems than if they had been used in Bosnia or remained on British soil”.
Enquiring how to define the multiple symptoms —nervous problems, head aches, depression, loss of memory or of sleep, chronic fatigue, eczema or respiratory problems — from which suffer some 6,000 British soldiers deployed in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, the enquiry led by Lord Lloyd of Berwick has, at any rate, given the term “Gulf War syndrome” at least the beginnings of official existence. “There is no medical reason to prevent these symptoms from being described as a syndrome” argues the report, rejecting the description “symptoms and signs of undefined health problems”, hitherto used by the British Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Stressing that 600 veterans of the first Gulf War were already dead and that 2,585 of them, mostly in terminal phase of illness, receive an invalidity pension, this report of investigation does not, however, draw any conclusions as to the origin of these unexplained illnesses.
According to this paper, the Gulf War syndrome is said to be due to “a combination of factors”: multiple injections of vaccines against anthrax and the plague, the use of pesticides on the tents under which the soldiers lived or were housed, the slight exposure of some soldiers to nerve gases and the inhalation of impoverished uranium.
This investigation report has, however, totally rejected the thesis that these illnesses are purely psychosomatic, thus agreeing with an American official report of 12 November that exposure to toxic agents and not stress is probably the origin of the maladies from which suffer some 100,000 of the 700,000 US troops deployed during the Gulf War in 1991.
In France, INSERM, a public Medical Research Institute, concluded, last July, that “nothing showed the existence of a specific Gulf syndrome” amongst the 20,261 French troops who took part in the Gulf War between August 1990 and July 1991.
The ferry connecting the two banks of the Tigris between Zakho (the Syrio-Iraqi border post) and Rebiah capsized while many passengers were on board. The accident was caused by it being overloaded with passengers. The majority were Kurds living abroad, who were returning home after the reopening of the border, which had been closed for several weeks by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi because of the US offensive against Fallujah, to the West of Baghdad.
Thirty-four bodies were recovered, on 30 November, after the boat's capsizing, according to the chief of the Zakho hospital, Khurshid Said. “To date the rescue workers have recovered 34 bodies, but they are continuing to work under difficult conditions as the current is very strong at this point”, declared an official of the establishment, to which the bodies of the victims are being sent.