MEPs intervene in support of Mehmet


Open letter to European members of parliament about the persecution of turkish conscientious objector –  (25 May 2005)


To the Turkish President, AHMET NECDET SEZER,
the Prime Minister RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN,
the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister ABDULLAH GÜL,
the Minister of Justice CEMİL ÇİÇEK,
the Minister of National Defense VECDİ GÖNÜL,
the Minister of the Interior ABDULKADİR AKSU

We, the undersigning Members of the European Parliament, hereby express our deepest concern on the case of Mehmet Tarhan who is denied his right to conscientious objection, deriving from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Mehmet Tarhan declared his conscientious objection on 27 October 2001 and continued anti-war activities in public ever since, without going into hiding. Therefore he is charged with "Insubordination in front of the unit". According to Article 88 Turkish Military Penal Code (TACK), he is facing a penalty between 3 months and 5 years imprisonment.

He was arrested on 8 April and until now is imprisoned in the Military Prison of Sivas where he is facing death threats, severe abuse and blackmail attempts by other prisoners, those encouraged and supported by prison guards. Prison authorities did not react on Mehmet Tarhans complaints. Only when his lawyer Suna Coskun demanded an examination, they would record the abuse. But still Mehmet Tarhan is target of threats and assaults. Further on he was transferred forcibly to a military hospital where he was by violence undressed and forced to wear a uniform.
Due to the repeated and grave mistreatment, Mehmet Tarhan suffers from several health problems.

The first trial on 28 April 2005 was attended by an international delegation. The trial was adjourned to 26 May, to call several soldiers from his unit as witnesses.

We, the undersigning Members of the European Parliament, call for the immediate release of Mehmet Tarhan and for the exemption of Mehmet Tarhan from military service. As long as he is imprisoned, we fear for his health, and call on you to ensure that he won't be mistreated.
The arrest of Mehmet Tarhan, the abuse in the military prison and the charge against him are violations of the human right to conscientious objection, the human right on freedom of movement and the human right on freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We also demand for the constitutional recognition of the right to conscientious objection.
Conscientious objection is a human right, deriving from Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Turkey is a signatory.

Therefore we urge you to exert your influence and to take appropriate action towards the release of Mehmet Tarhan as well as of all imprisoned conscientious objectors and towards the recognition of the right to conscientious objection.

First Signatures:

Members of the European Parliament
Adamos Adamou, Vittorio Agnoletto, Paulo Casaca, Michael Cashman, Richard Falbr, Jean Lambert, Caroline Lucas, Helmuth Markov, Erik Meijer, Luisa Morgantini, Roberto Musacchio, Dimitris Papadimoulis, Tobias Pflueger, Miguel Portas, Miloslav Ransdorf, Heide Ruehle, Eva-Britt Svensson, Sahra Wagenknecht, Gabriele Zimmer



Italian MEP Vittorio Agnoletto (12 July 2005)


European Parliament

Form to submit a Parliamentary Question

Addressee: Council

Written priority question (44,4)

Author: Vittorio Agnoletto


RE: Right to conscientious objection, and arrest of Turkish citizen Mehmet Tarhan


The Turkish citizen Mehmet TARHAN is a gay activist.  On 27 October 2001 he declared himself a “conscientious objector”, refusing to serve in the compulsory draft into the Armed Forces in Turkey.


The right to conscientious objection is in fact one of the basic rights of the person in the EU and is part of the political, cultural and civil rights provisions which the EU proposes to Countries of the enlargement such as Turkey. 


Mehmet TARHAN also refuses to serve because he is likely to be sent to the Kurdish region of Turkey and could be ordered to shoot at civilians: women, children and men. 


Mehmet TARHAN was arrested on 8 April 2005 and transferred to the military prison in Sivas, where he started a political hunger strike.  He is charged with “insubordination before command” pursuant Art. 88 of the Turkish Penal Military Code, and could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. 


Mr TAHRAN has been subjected to torture and harassment in jail, even by the legal authorities which manage the prison.  Some of Mr TAHRAN’s supporters were also arrested, intimidated and then released. 


Does the Council not think that the right to conscientious objection is politically integral to the “Copenhagen political criteria” and, as such, that its recognition should become compulsory for Turkey? 


Does the Council not think that, given his personal situation and his legitimate political convictions, Mr TARHAN should be immediately released from prison?


Taking the political significance of the case into consideration, what steps does the Council intend to take to verify Mr TARHAN’s state of health and treatment?


12 July 2005



British MEP Caroline Lucas (13 July 2005)


Thank you for copying Caroline into your letter to the Turkish authorities about Mehmet Tarhan. Caroline shares your concerns about him and has herself written to the Turkish Ambassador to ask that significant steps are taken to guarantee Mr Tarhan's safety. She also urged the Ambassador to do all he can to ensure that the rights of all Turkish people to protest, and to freedom of expression, are protected. You may be aware that Mr Tarhan's conditions improved earlier this week, undoubtedly as a result of the international campaign, but that there are still concerns for his safety and that his human rights are being
Kind regards,
Cath Miller
Constituency Co-ordinator for Caroline Lucas - Green Party MEP for SE
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13 July 2005


Dutch MEP Erik Meijer (18 July 2005)


Written question E-2869/05to the European Commission

Subject: Incarceration, intimidation and recurrent punishment of conscientious objectors to military service in Turkey and correction of unacceptable practices

1. Is the Commission aware that Turkey still practices conscription of young men of Turkish nationality and takes little or no account of the fact that some of the conscripts have been born and bred outside Turkey, will be exposed to dangers during their military service on account of their homosexual orientation or have conscientious objections to serving in the Turkish army?

2. Is the Commission aware that the practice which has developed in the EU Member States, whereby refusal to perform military service can lead to forms of alternative service but not to separate, recurrent prison sentences each time a conscientious objector again fails to respond to his call-up, is still not adhered to in Turkey?

3. Is the Commission aware that, since 8 April 2005, the conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan has been incarcerated in Sivas military prison in Turkey, where other prisoners beat him, humiliate him and threaten him with death with the approval of the guards, and that it was only thanks to a 28-day hunger strike that it was possible to secure equal treatment and an examination by independent doctors? Is the Commission further aware that on 12 July, after a further refusal to perform military service, fresh proceedings were initiated against Mehmet Tarhan?

4. In the Commission's view, did the public prosecutor and prison management act independently here, and will their actions be punished and corrected by the Turkish authorities, or were these actions entirely in line with Turkish legislation and government policy?

5. What scope is there for offering political asylum in EU Member States to Mehmet Tarhan and four other recent victims of outdated legislation and of practices which violate human rights?

6. What role will the treatment of conscientious objectors play in the forthcoming negotiations with Turkey on accession to the EU?

Answer given by Olli Rehn on behalf of the European Commission
12 September 2005

The Commission is aware of the case of Mr Mehmet Tarhan, who was charged with 'insubordination before his unit' in accordance with Article 88 of the Turkish Military Penal Code. The case appears to raise a number of issues under the European Convention on Human Rights and Mr Tarhan or his legal representatives might consider applying to the European Court of Human Rights as and when all domestic remedies are exhausted.

Turkey does not recognize the right of "conscientious objection" to compulsory military service and has no alternative civilian service. This is not in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which states that : "the right to conscientious objection is recognized, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right."

The Commission will continue to monitor closely Turkey's compliance with the Copenhagen political criteria, including human rights, and will report its assessment in the 2005 Regular Report on Turkey, due to be published in November 2005.