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HFHR: refugee extradition to Turkey will violate human rights

The HFHR developed two opinions on the proceedings in a case of extradition of Erdala Gökoğlu to Turkey where he is accused of being a member of an armed group. In Belgium, Mr Gökoğlu obtained a refugee status.

In January, Erdal Gökoğlu was arrested in Poland after a routine check conducted by the Border Guard. He came to Poland for a wedding of his friend. During the check it turned out that the Turkish national was wanted by Interpol.

The opinion stated that the refugee status granted by Belgium is in itself a sufficient justification for a refusal of extradition to Turkey. This results from the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees which prohibits extradition of refugees to countries in which their life is in danger. The opinion also pointed to the fact that according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Member States guarantee the right to asylum with the respect for the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

The opinion also provides information on the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights from 6 October 2015, entered in the case Kavaklioğlu and others v. Turkey. Erdal Gökoğlu was one of the applicants in this case. The Court held that Turkish authorities violated his right to life guaranteed by Article 2 of the Convention. It was violated when his life was in danger during an operation conducted by the Turkish military police in 1999 at Ulucanlar prison in Ankara where the applicant was detained.

The opinion noted that in Turkey there are hundreds of political prisoners (including journalists and university professors) who were sentenced for their alleged membership in armed groups or support they supposedly provided to terrorist activities. It was also stated that such persons can be sentenced even if the authorities do not have sufficient evidence that a given person was engaged in such activities; moreover, the HFHR noted that the Turkish official definition of terrorist activity was very broad. The opinion highlights the fact that the conditions in Turkish prisons are bad (overcrowding, lack of appropriate health care, etc.) and the judges and prosecutors in Turkey are under strong political pressure and their independence tends to be violated.

A hearing at the Regional Court in Gorzów Wielkopolski will take place on 6 April 2016. The HFHR will participate in the proceedings as a community organisation.

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