It sounded good on paper. In theory, Turkey’s new ombudsman program is meant to be an important tool for protecting citizen rights. Unfortunately, major problems are already evident.
Human Rights Watch has issued a powerful critique of the way Turkey has implemented its long-planned ombudsman program.
1. Ombudsman will have no capacity to oversee the “solely military activities of the Turkish Armed Forces.” As Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch notes:
“The concern is that the ombudsman will not be allowed to scrutinize the military, even when they are implicated in serious human rights abuses. Given the track record of the military in Turkey, it is vital not to use this provision to shield the military from being investigated.”
2. Despite protests from the Republican Peoples Party and the Peace and Democracy Party, the Turkish Parliament has selected Mehmet Nihat Ömeroğlu as the first head of the ombudsman institution. Ömeroğlu was one of the judges in the Court of Cassation which upheld journalist Hrant Dink‘s conviction for “insulting Turkishness” under the notorious article 301. In recent interviews with the Turkish press he has defended this notorious conviction, saying “[we] made our decision on this case on the basis of our conscience.”
Turkey can do better.