Iranian refugees still detained in Turkey despite court ruling

Two Iranian refugees, who remain in detention in Turkey despite a European Court of Human Rights ruling on Tuesday, should be released, said Amnesty International. The court ruled that Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia had been arbitrarily detained in Turkey without access to a lawyer or an asylum procedure, and other violations.

The Court concluded that the two men, who were former members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization in Iran (PMOI), would face a real risk of death or ill-treatment if returned to Iran or Iraq.

Amnesty International called on the Turkish authorities to release Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia as well as others currently in detention following a decision by the European Court of Human Rights to stay their deportation.

“Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia have been held in unlawful detention for more than a year,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey. “They should be released immediately along with all others in a similar position, but not included in this application.”

Amnesty International had previously written to the Turkish authorities requesting the release of the applicants and seven other individuals who were held in detention following applications to the court.

Mohsen Abdolkhani and Hamid Karimnia were recognized as refugees by UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, while they were resident in a camp created by United States forces in Iraq. Their status was recognized on the grounds of their political opinions and their links with the PMOI.  

After the camp was closed in April 2008, the two men fled to Turkey, but were apprehended by security forces and deported back to Iraq without any legal procedure. After re-entering Turkey, they were once again apprehended and subsequently convicted of illegal entry into Turkey.

Despite their statements to police and to the court that their lives would be at risk if returned to Iran or Iraq, the authorities attempted to deport them again, this time to Iran.

They were transferred in September 2008 to the Kirklareli Foreigners’ Guesthouse after their application to the to the European Court of Human Rights against the deportation was lodged. They remain in detention more than a year later.

Throughout their detention, the men have been denied access to an asylum procedure, to meet with their lawyers and to any mechanism to challenge the legality of their detention.

Amnesty International is calling on the Turkish authorities to overhaul its legislation relating to the detention of refugees and asylum-seekers.

“Turkey must end the practice of detaining refugees and asylum-seekers for immigration purposes in line with international human rights standards which require that detention is only used in the most exceptional circumstances,” Andrew Gardner said.