by Yasir Gökçe, Hakan Kaplankaya, Harun Reşit Halisoğlu and Mehmet Bozkaya, published on 6 November 2023

This report examines the criminal acts and/or omissions of the Turkish authorities against individuals alleged to be affiliated with, connected to, or members of the Gülen Group in the context of violations of the right to property and concludes that these acts and omissions constitute crimes against humanity. These are scrutinized under Article 7/1(h) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and proved to correspond to “persecution” committed against the Gülen Group in connection with ongoing arbitrary detentions, whose “crimes against humanity” nature was already elucidated in various semi-judicial decisions and reports of NGOs.

As part of its crackdown on the Gülen movement, the Erdogan government interfered with properties belonging to the Gülen Group as well as its alleged members in an arbitrary and vengeful way. Not only the institutions, NGOs, and media organs of the Gülen Group but also the private enterprises and assets of alleged Gülenists were trespassed and illegally seized, confiscated, and expropriated despite safeguards stipulated in domestic and international law.

The report uncovers primarily why those violations of the Erdogan government against the property rights of the Gülen Group cannot fall within the category of lawful interference. Having regard to the national legislation and international mechanisms, this interference with the right to property can neither be considered lawful nor justified since following four criteria were not met: adherence to the principle of legality/lawfulness, adherence to the principle of proportionality, the public interest, and balanced with payment of compensation.

Noting that systematic and/or widespread conduction of violations is a prerequisite for crimes against humanity, the report establishes in line with the jurisprudence of international courts the systematic nature of those violations. Several statements of state representatives, state practices, and associated occurrences examined throughout the report demonstrate that the severe property rights violations were committed as part of a predetermined plan and policy against the Gülen Group. This policy envisages that the Gülen Movement, physically or as a collection of ideas and ideals, should be weakened, incapacitated, and eradicated by all means and that stripping the group of their financial means is an available and effective vehicle to that end.

The report turns thereupon its attention to the widespread nature of property rights violations. This nature is indicated by the massive and frequent violations carried out collectively within the framework of the deprivation policy of the Erdogan regime directed against a large number of individuals. The fact that the individuals were targeted not because of their individual attributes but rather due to their alleged affiliation with the Gülen Group reinforces the conclusion that, despite their multiplicity, those individuals have been targeted for a single attribution made by the public authorities, namely being regarded as linked to the Gülen Group. The report offers some figures to convey the collectiveness, seriousness, and large-scale character of the human rights violations endured by the real or perceived Gülen-Group members.

Finally, the report concludes with the scrutiny of four representative cases that stand out as crimes against humanity in light of the above-cited four criteria for lawful and justified interference with the right to property, none of which have been met in the cases examined. More precisely, in all cases, the consequences of the “terrorist” designation of the Gülen Group were applied retrospectively such that the former activities of victims were affected. Likewise, in regards the proportionality principle, the obligation to resort to less intrusive and invasive measures in the pursuit of the public interest was not observed. Furthermore, the way in which the companies were seized shows that the interference with property rights did not advance, let alone fulfill, the public interest but rather pursued the private interests of those who initiated the interference. Last, contrary to the obligation to compensate the property seizure with payment of an amount commensurate with the market value, none of the victims has received any monetary amount for the severe losses they suffered.

All in all, the Turkish government has instrumentalized criminal and anti-terror legislation to further and intensify its crackdown on the Gülen movement and regarded all economic activities of the perceived Gülenists as support for a terrorist organization without demonstrating any involvement in criminal conduct.