2nd Mar 2024

EU human rights court silent on detained minority in Turkey

  • Some 100 members of the sect are detained at Edirne centre in Turkey. This reportedly includes over 20 children, aged between 1 and 17. (Photo: CriticAtac)
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The European Court of Human Rights has refused to help a persecuted religious minority awaiting deportation from the EU-funded Edirne centre in Turkey where rights abuses have been documented.

Demands for the Strasbourg-based court to intervene with interim measures were instead formally rejected by a judge on 21 July. The court has since declined to explain its decision, leaving rights defenders exasperated.

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"There is no more information that we can give at this time," said a spokesperson, from the court when pressed, in an email.

Only earlier this week, a nine-year old boy from Algeria, stuck at Edirne, was rushed to the hospital after weeks of illness, according to witness testimony.

"He was vomiting green substance a couple of days ago. This is a sign of kidney inflammation," said Fayrouz Elkholi.

Elkholi is the press officer for The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, a Muslim offshoot persecuted for defending the LGBT+ community.

The boy, along with some 100 members of the religion, have been held at Edirne for the past three months.

The group had unsuccessfully attempted to enter Bulgaria legally on 24 May to claim asylum at the Kapikule border crossing on the Turkish side.

They were instead sent to Edirne and issued with deportation orders five days later.

According to Human Rights Watch, an NGO, the conditions at Edirne include inedible food, cramped quarters, as well as forcing people to sign deportation orders against their will.

With many facing jail over their beliefs back home, including in Malaysia where eight were recently arrested, the group was hoping for a temporary reprieve from the European Court of Human Rights.

They made two requests to the court.

The first sought the release of the children and their parents, as well as access to the centre by medical doctors and civil organisations to ensure basic standards.

The second sought to stem Turkish deportation orders.

Both requests were refused, said Elkholi.

"And they remained completely silent on the reason given on why the aspects of detention would not be looked into," she said. Elkholi said the group then appealed, asking the court to review their decision.

"We got the response back that the court would not revise the decision and would not re-evaluate it," she said.

It means the group will remain detained at Edirne for the foreseeable future or until they get the deported.

The deportation poses additional problems.

According to Elkholi, the group can make another interim request from the Strasbourg-based court to intervene after their case has been heard at Turkey's constitutional court.

That could possibly take weeks or even months.

Last month, UN experts urged authorities in Turkey not to deport the group given the risk of serious human rights violations if they are returned to their countries of origin.

"They are particularly at risk of detention due to blasphemy laws, in violation of their right to freedom of religion or belief," they said, in a statement.

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