A MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CHAIRMAN
As we move into KHRP's tenth anniversary year in 2002, we look back on what has been in many ways our most challenging year of work so far in the year 2001. While the year has included many significant victories for us - most notably the wonderful end-of-the-year victory in the Ilisu dam struggle - we have also been faced with a number of serious challenges that include many grave setbacks for human rights in the Kurdish regions.
Throughout the year, KHRP has continued our mission to protect and promote the human rights of all those who suffer human rights abuses in the Kurdish regions. We have worked hard to implement our core projects in litigation and training, fact-finding mission and trial observations, research and publications and public awareness despite the ever difficult struggle for financial resources. With years of experience in the fight for Kurdish human rights to build upon, we were more able than ever before to play a pivotal role in die development and protection of Kurdish human rights in 2001.
Spring 2001 marked the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War in Iraq. Although at the time, then President George Bush asserted that the Iraqi people should "take matters into their own hands and force Saddam to stand aside", as we all know too well now, the West washed its hands of responsibility at the war's end and failed to help Kurdish uprisings against Hussein's repressive regime. The resulting ten long years of protracted misery for die Iraqi people has included the on-going suffering and uncertainty faced by those in the Kurdish "safe haven" who continue to sustain waves of violence from Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish troops and still struggle for international recognition.
In Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2001, KHRP was able to significantly build upon our past two years of work there developing contacts and starting training, litigation and support programmes. Both countries signed the European Convention on Human Rights in January 2001 and in August, KHRP was asked by the Council of Europe to take part in Convention training in Azerbaijan. Following this, we held a KHRP training seminar in Baku, Azerbaijan in December and plans have already been made to continue these training sessions in 2002.
We hope that this work will help to improve the capacity of human rights organisations and lawyers to combat the poor state of human rights in both countries which has been marred by the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, violations of free expression and religion, and the lack of substantive political rights for Kurds and other minorities.
Despite hopes for greater transparency and socio-political change in Syria under the new leadership of Bashar al-Assad, the year 2001 brought continuing human rights violations including an escalation in political arrests and detentions without charge as well as the Syria's continuing failure to reinstate citizenship to the 200,000 stateless Kurds who are denied such basic fights as the right to own land, vote, or obtain a passport. In March, KHRP submitted a summary of our major concerns in Syria to the UN Human Rights Committee during its consideration of Syria's compliance report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Syria's more than 1.5 million Kurds still await such key improvements as Constitutional recognition, an end to the harassment and ill-treatment of human rights activists, and a reversal of the continuing discrimination minority groups face.
While Iran's nearly 8 million Kurds generally welcomed the June landslide re-election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, the year also witnessed many grave struggles for Iranian Kurds. In September, six Iranian Kurdish MPs submitted a letter of group resignation in protest over the continuing discrimination against Kurds. Despite repeated promises of assistance, Iranian Kurds continue to suffer the effects of extreme poverty and on-going human rights violations that include attacks on free expression and association and torture in custody.
In Turkey, 2001 opened with a shocking increase in die torture in custody rate as new "F-Type" prisons, characterised by 1- and 3-person cells which increase the risk of isolation and ill-treatment, were introduced amidst widespread protests. Although KHRP welcomes the Constitutional reforms Turkey adopted in 2001 as part of its attempt to move forward in EU accession, these changes have resulted in no major improvement of die human rights situation on the ground. This year has seen the continuation of gross human rights violations of the Kurds and other minorities in Turkey including extra-judicial killings and 'disappearances', widespread torture, violations of freedom of expression, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and on-going impunity- for the perpetrators of human rights abuse.
The EU must strengthen its monitoring of Turkey's accession and Turkey must be made to prove that it is not just changing not just words on paper but that it is truly serious about improving the human rights of all of its citizens in actual practice.
Throughout 2001, KHRP continued to be actiyrc in the international front, making recommendations to governments in the Kurdish regions and encouraging human rights reforms in these areas.
As we look back over nearly 10 years of fruitful KHRP work, we feel a renewed sense of encouragement to face what often feels like an endless fight for human rights in the Kurdish regions. We thank all those who have assisted us in 2001. As ever, our work would not be possible without the generous support of our funders and without the assistance of the many volunteers whose work remains invaluable to us. We also thank the KHRP staff for their continued committnent to the human rights struggle. We also mark the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Michael Feeney, who died in the autumn. We pay tribute to his amazing lifetime of work on behalf of the Kurds and other minorities. He will be deeply missed and always remembered by all of us.
Finally, we reserve our deepest respect to all those in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Caucasus who continue to fight for human rights in dangerous circumstances and at huge personal risk. In these troubled times, such bravery inspires all of us and renews our sense of purpose.
The Role of The Kurdish Human Rights Project
KHRP was established in December 1992 in response to the abysmal human rights situation in the Kurdish regions and the international community's failure to effectively call Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union to account for the treatment of their Kurdish populations.
These states, encompassing the Kurdish regions, have ratified many international agreements relating to human rights, thereby indicating their intention to be bound by them. KHRP was born out of a desire to utilise these international instruments in order to ensure that consistent violators of human rights within the Kurdish regions were made accountable before the legal structures which police both the European and wider international communities. Today, KHRP has earned international respect for its consistent work in drawing attention to human rights violations in the Kurdish regions.
KHRP employs a team of nine permanent members of staff in England and in Turkey. Our UK office is located in central London. KHRP is both a limited company and a registered charity.
The Executive Director and a board of trustees -also known as Directors - are responsible for the management and policy development of the Project.
KHRP constructs much of its work around four core projects, namely Human Rights Advocacy & Training, Trial Observations & Fact-Finding Missions, Research & Publication, and Public Awareness, Education & Communication Strategies. These are closely integrated and interrelated. Much of this project work is carried out by our professional members of staff, within the KHRP offices in London, who are directly involved in the implementation of projects from the initial planning and preparation through to their final evaluation stage. We also rely on interns and volunteers who provide our staff with invaluable research and casework assistance as well as support in the practical running of our office's activities.
The central core of KHRP's activities is our intensive legal work. KHRP's Human Rights Advocacy & Training project provides legal advice and assistance to a large number of individuals in the Kurdish regions who are complaining that their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights have been violated by the Turkish State. KHRP carries out preliminary case preparation, and the drafting and pleading of cases, both orally and in writing, before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This also involves attending investigation hearings in Strasbourg and Turkey, and co-ordinating the caseload of KHRP's Legal Team comprising lawyers in the UK, Turkey and elsewhere.
The Trial Observation & Fact-Finding project seeks to investigate and draw international attention to human rights problems in the Kurdish area. It involves the preparation of and participation in fact-finding missions in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union, attending court proceedings against individuals and organisations as trial observers in order to monitor adherence to the concepts of Rule of Law and Due Process in these countries, producing reports that are distributed in order to raise public awareness of human rights violations in the Kurdish regions, and making recommendations to governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Our Research & Publication project involves carrying out in-house or commissioned research which is disseminated through the publication of reports. These are intended to supply relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations and interested individuals with a sound factual base from which to make informed decisions with regard to the allegations of human rights abuses in the Kurdish regions.