The Turkish government has signed a series of “secret” agreements with states, including Albania to enable “extraterritorial abductions and the forcible return of Turkish nationals”, according to a report by UN Rapporteurs
The rapporteurs said that over 100 Turkish citizens had been forcibly transferred and that 40 of these had been subjected to “enforced disappearance”, at times with their family and children.
Dated May 2020, the report brings to attention the information they received which appears to show a systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions. The individuals in question are suspected of being involved with the Gulen movement who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as accused of being a terrorist organisation.
Albania along with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Gabon Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and Pakistan have been named as having come to a written agreement with the Turkish government on these matters.
These “serious allegations of human rights violations” started after the attempted coup of 2016. The report says that Turkey has targeted the suspected members of the Gulen movement and signed bilateral security co-operation agreements with multiple states. According to the report, these agreements contain broad and vague references to combatting terrorism and transnational crime. This they said, could serve the purpose of allowing for expulsion or abduction of anyone deemed to be a “security risk”.
Rapporteurs noted that there was a clear link in the timing of the operations. Most were carried out within two years since the agreements came into force. Members of the Turkish government are accused of sending updated lists of supposed terrorists to their foreign counterparts, requesting their immediate deportation. These citizens then often find their passports annulled and citizenship revoked.
The report states that the Turkish government have not only admitted to perpetrating or abetting abductions and illegal transfers but have vowed to carry out more in the future. It is reported that in November 2018, the Turkish Foreign Minister informed Parliament that 452 extradition requests had been sent to a total of 83 countries.
It also noted the July 2019 visit to Albania by the Turkish Interior Minister. During his visit, he reiterated a request that all Gulen affiliated schools in the country are closed and their staff deported. The Minister allegedly presented a document of all the names and passport numbers of Turkish nationals with Albanian residence who it wanted to be deported.
The report found that the Turkish authorities had established a special task force that is responsible for conducting and abetting the operations in other countries.
In July 2019, Turkish citizen Harun Celik was detained at Tirana International Airport for travelling with a fake Canadian passport. He was sentenced to prison. According to the report, on the request of the Turkish government, the Albanian Ministry of the Interior issued an expulsion order on 1 January 2020. He was then “abducted” and taken to the Albanian immigration department. He was refused legal advice and refused the right to apply for asylum. He was then deported to Turkey.
This case and others detailed in the report appear to show how “host authorities appear to have flouted international protection”. This shows a disregard for the rule of law and safeguards aimed at protecting rights, as well as a lack of accountability for enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, and other violations of basic rights.
The rapporteurs said that any “secret” agreements need to be made public so that they can be observed and regulated. They said that at the moment, these agreements are prima facie, in contravention of various international human rights laws. It was also observed that “in almost all circumstances” the arrests were carried out without any legal basis and no arrest warrants were provided.
Particular concern was reserved for the children, who along with their parents have been subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment, prior to, during, and after deportation.
The Rapporteurs called on the Turkish government to be transparent with the “secret” agreements, provide information and legal justification for each forced deportation, and to ensure the protection of human rights.
The expulsion of Harun Celik from Albania drew comments from CoE Rapporteur Andrej Hunko who said:
“We took notice of the worrying extradition of Mr Harun Çelik and we will closely follow the situation. According to the CoE European Convention on Extradition, there shall be no extradition on political offences.”
He added that under the CoE Human Rights Convention, member states have to ensure that human rights of all persons on their territory will be respected.
“An extradition to a state where a fair trial is at least doubtful is not in line with these responsibilities,” he explained, meaning that the actions of Albanian authorities could find them in violation of not just one convention they are signatory to, but two.
The EU Delegation in Tirana also said that the Albanian government must follow the legal process and be aware of the human rights laws it is bound by.