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Baltasar Garzón Real

International Hrant Dink Award Welcome Speech 15.09.2010

First, I would like to thank the Hrant Dink Foundation for giving me this award for a better world, for peace, for the refusal of discrimination, racism and violence.

At the same time, I would like to salute the memory of the person who presented such an example of courage and conviction against intolerance, for peace and for human rights.

The press is one of the most indispensible instruments for the construction of democracy in a country. The attack on a journalist, who fights against intolerance, is one of the worst methods of violation of human rights. Each state has to provide the instruments for the protection of its citizens in particular, when it is a case of building a freer, a more equal and a more equitable society.

When people are persecuted for their ideas, this shows that there is a fundamental absence of human rights in that country. Hrant Dink was convinced of this and gave his life for this. His assassination is a matter of embarrassment for all of us.

As a person and as a judge, I have always believed that one of the most important and definite methods of obtaining peace and getting rid of racism, discrimination, violence is justice and the fight against impunity.

The history of humanity shows that impunity is one of the worst methods to deal with the state of the world.

The history of the world is full of instances where impunity was the rule. For instance, the Armenian Genocide has been denied and still being denied or the crimes of Latin American dictatorships those in Cambochia, Timour or elsewhere are only now being looked into. In Spain, the crimes against humanity of the Franco dictatorship are not even recognized as crimes, despite the fact that there are more than one hundred thirty thousand cases of disappearance. The cases of abduction, disappearance, torture or all the other crimes committed in the name of struggle against terrorism conflict with all idea of legality, and shows the failure of the idea of security is preferred over legality.

Today, we have to see that this panorama is inacceptable and the way is shown to us by Hrant Dink and the newspaper, Agos. We have to see that this picture changes.

The struggle against discrimination is a necessity but we have to go beyond the non-recognition of differences. Justice is necessary in order to deal with these problems and impunity. For this reason, crimes, whether they be domestic or international, should be the topic of action on part of international justice and the impunity forms deep source of embarrassment for humanity. As Tocqueville said, democracy is really based on moral attitude of people and unless impunity is fought against, the totalitarianism will be the result. That is why we need universal conscience, and instead of the economic reason we need administration on the basis of need and we have to make the defense of human rights or ideology. Instead of indifference we have to place responsibility, instead of intolerance we have to establish respect for difference. We are many and we will grow. We will fight against the arbitrary and intolerance. At times, we may fight for universal justice. At times, we may fight against war. At times, we may fight against uncultured and ugly globalization that impoverishes all. Perhaps, we will be able to put an end to the Guantanamos of the world. Perhaps, we will be able to demand with a single voice that the United Nations assume humanitarian leadership that corresponds to its mission and that it can complete the exercise of international norms. At time, perhaps we can find an educational instrument that will fight against all kinds of violations of human rights.

Perhaps, the European Union will find a way, an integrating manner of soliderizing with peoples, without expulsing people on the base of race or nationality. Perhaps, friends, will be able to put an end to impunity and install a real international justice because latter will not prove to be the soul solution against the former but nonetheless is a necessity for fighting it.

On this day, when European Court of Human Rights has made a decision in favor of Hrant Dink, let me say friends that we will not accept that the fight for human rights is something obsolete; it’s exactly the contrary. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is more valid than ever in this sixty second year of its acceptance and will be the best political program for any government. It is worth fighting for human rights because our future depends on it. At times the effort of a limited number of people will succeed to change the course of events of the world. Hrant Dink is a very good example. Hrant Dink did this and we cannot turn away from his action. His memory will be very valuable for our self respect.

Thank you for inviting me tonight and for awarding me.
“… in short, commanders, this is what I’m saying. I learnt that there exists a right to conscientious objection. I am using this right… and I want you to know that I will not take any arms to my hands ever – even if it is to be aimed at you. Because I know that my words will hit you like bullet. I prefer to die rather than kill. Here I am, waiting for you.”

These are the closing words of Inan Suver’s declaration of objection to military service. Since August 5, he is held at the Sirinyer Military Prison of Izmir, which is famous with its torture.

It is honoring and encouraging to receive this award on behalf of the conscientious objectors who chose, like Hrant, to live “a little skittishly, yet so free”, and like Hrant, optimistically cling to an obstinacy to exist here and stay here. I would like to thank the International Hrant Dink Award Committee and the jury.

The conscientious objectors have been condemned to a vicious circle of prison-barracks-military courts for 20 years in this country; and, even if they are not arrested they are convicted to a “civilian death” as the European Court of Human Rights defined. What they actually say is: either you shut up/give up, or let us stigmatize you with the “unfit to serve” report we will issue, either you lock yourselves to your homes and build your own prisons or leave this country.

Hrant said: “Leaving the ‘burning hell’ to run to ‘ready-made heavens’ was not for me. We were of those who aspired to turn the hell they live in, into heaven.” We can only walk on with the feeling of responsibility we feel to the ones who are able to say this.

We are able to walk on with the inspiration of the women objectors who change the rules of the “game”, or even, spoil the game by declaring their objections.

We are able to walk on with the encouragement of those who persist on not turning a blind eye, who take on responsibility to make our struggle visible.

Every manifest of conscientious objection means a personal commitment to struggle against militarism and speak the language of peace. And with this award, we now give our word to Hrant.

Hrant, we promise to keep our word!

Thank you.
BALTASAR GARZÓN REAL was born in Torres, Spain on October 26th, 1955. By the time he entered the University of Sevilla in 1973, he was already determined to become a judge. He moved to a quiet town near the Portuguese border to begin his career as a local judge.

In 1985, at 30, he found evidence of corruption among prominent court officials of Marbella and wrote a confidential report urging further inquiry. When the case was shelved, he quitted. At 32, he qualified for one of the openings on the high court in Madrid. During an investigation, evidence soon emerged tying the Spanish security forces to the rightist assassination squads that came to be known as the Grupos Anti-terroristas de Liberación (GAL). He sought information on secret government accounts linked to GAL. Prime Minister Felipe González maintained that the release of such information would compromise national security but he was undeterred.

In 1993, promising reform, Garzón was offered to be a parliamentarian by the Socialist Party to combat corruption. The anti-corruption effort went nowhere, he was disappointed and resigned. He returned to the high court. First thing he did was to reveal the evidence pointing to the involvement of senior government officials with GAL.

In 1998, he had KAS shut down for being a part of The Basque separatist group ETA’s structure. He is in the blacklist of ETA for prosecuting the activities of the organization.

In 1998, he issued an international arrest warrant for Chilean junta leader Pinochet, who was in England at the time, for the crimes of torture and assassination of the Spanish citizens. Pinochet was put under house arrest in England for 16 months. The case served notice to many of the world’s tyrants that their impunity had been circumscribed, and it opened the way to other prosecutions for crimes against humanity in Europe, America and Africa.

He filed charges of genocide against Argentine military officers on the disappearance of Spanish citizens during Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship. In 2005, Argentine naval officer Adolfo Scilingo was convicted for crimes against humanity and sentenced to 640 years.

In 2008, he initiated an investigation on the 114,000 disappearance during the Franco regime in Spain. He was accused of breaking the amnesty law which provides immunity for the crimes committed during Franco regime. A case was opened against him. He was suspended from his duties in May 2010, the case is still pending.
CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION MOVEMENT IN TURKEY was born when Tayfun Gönül and Vedat Zencir declared via the Sokak magazine that they rejected the military service, in December 1989 and February 1990 respectively.

Via this movement, Turkey was witnessing an anti-militarist campaign for the first time. This campaign “No to Military Service!” initiated in 1990 lead to the Anti-War Associations established in Izmir in December 1992, and in Istanbul in 1993. Then the campaign named “No to Military Trials!” was started to draw attention to the trials of civilians in the military courts.

This is how they were shaped... They started their long journey with many roadblocks. They faced intense persecution and censorship in between 1994 and 1999. They were tried and convicted in military courts for “disinclining people from the military service” and “breaking the national endurance”. They did not give up; they grew larger and magnified their reactions.

In 2002, Mehmet Bal became the first person to declare his conscientious objection while still a soldier. When Halil Savda was taken to the military unit in 2004, he declared his conscientious objection and he was tried while under detention. Mehmet Tarhan, who was arrested and taken to the military unit in 2005, as different from the previous cases, was accused on “insistence on disobeying orders publicly and in order to avoid military service completely” and imprisoned in military jails for 11 months.

While being convicted, facing tortures, they organized creative and inspiring events in the streets in order to be heard. They organized the “militourism festival” on May 15th, 2004 and “the rice festival of the conscientious objectors” in front of the Medical Barracks in the same year. During this time, “the Conscientious Objection Commission” was established under the Human Rights Association in Istanbul.

Their voice was heard in Europe. In the beginning of 2006, the ECtHR found Turkey guilty in the case of Osman Murat Ülke and described the pressure exercised by the Turkish state on conscientious objectors as “civil death.” In 2007, Enver Aydemir became the first person to declare his conscientious objection in Turkey on religious grounds . For the last 4 years, the European Council Committee of Parliamentarians has been sending warnings to Turkey every six months to have new regulations about the conscientious objection. In 2010, the number of conscientious objectors in Turkey reached 121, including 24 women and 5 visually impaired participants.