Ankara: Hrw Slams Appointment Of Controversial Judge As Turkey’s Fir


Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Dec 10 2012

Human Rights Watch (HRW) jumped on the bandwagon on Monday criticizing
the appointment of Mehmet Nihat Omeroglu as Turkey’s first ombudsman,
calling on the government to reconsider the appointment if it
“is serious about creating an ombudsman institution that champions
citizens’ rights.”

Omeroglu, a retired member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, was
one of the judges at the top court who approved a local court’s
ruling against Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink over charges of
“insulting Turkishness” according to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal
Code (TCK), which was later amended.

Dink was shot to death by an ultranationalist youth in front of the
Agos newspaper, of which he was editor-in-chief, in 2007.

Over the past week Omeroglu publicly stated to the newspaper Yeni
Safak that Dink’s writing “constituted a clear violation of Article
301” and to the newspaper Radikal that “[we] made our decision on
this case on the basis of our conscience.”

According to HRW, Omeroglu’s appointment as the chief ombudsman of
Turkey’s newly created ombudsman institution has a history of failing
to respect human rights standards, and his appointment risks the
effectiveness of the new institution.

Omeroglu was sworn in by Parliament as head of the ombudsman
institution on Dec. 5, 2012. The body was approved by parliament in
June but has not yet been established.

“The newly appointed ombudsman continues to stand behind a court
decision that the European Court of Human Rights strongly condemned
as a violation of free speech,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior
researcher for Turkey at HRW. “If the government is serious about
creating an ombudsman institution that champions citizens’ rights,
it should reconsider this appointment.”

Omeroglu was sworn in a week after the majority of members of
parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)
voted for his appointment over two other candidates.

The decision to convict Dink targeted his writing on the impact on
Armenians of the mass killings in 1915.

In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey to have
violated Dink’s right to freedom of expression with the Article 301
conviction and to have failed to protect Dink’s life in the face of
evidence known to authorities that Dink faced a real and imminent
threat in the form of plots to kill him.

An ombudsman is an independent public authority assigned to hear
complaints or grievances concerning the delivery of public services.

The Ombudsman’s Office will be responsible for examining and
investigating all manners of administrative acts, attitudes
and behavior in terms of respect for human rights and freedoms,
conformity with the law and fairness and appropriateness within the
framework of the character of the Republic of Turkey as enshrined
in its Constitution. It will perform its functions as part of the
Parliament Speaker’s Office.