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Experts: Turkey might be tried for financing ISIL, arms trafficking

Russia's pledge to take the issue of Turkey's alleged financing of terrorist factions within Syria — such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — to the United Nations after Turkey recently shot down its jet, has stirred speculation that Turkey could be tried in international courts.

Tensions between Turkey and Russia have been running amok over the past few days, as on Tuesday NATO's second largest army the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) downed a Russian Su-24 jet near the Syrian border, after repeatedly warning it over airspace violations.

Moscow blames Turkey and has set about bolstering its military presence in the region, dispatching several S-400 air defense systems to bolster its Khmeimim air base in Syria's Latakia province. The Kremlin is also determined to punish its one-time friend with economic sanctions such as refusing to buy poultry from Turkey and ordering Russian tourists not to visit the country.

However, the biggest damage Turkey may incur in the fallout of the fallen jet may come after the statements made by Russian leaders, which claim that they will take the issue of ISIL's financial avenues to the UN Security Council — and that may cause Turkey a much-unneeded headache.

President Vladimir Putin called the downing of the jet a stab in the back administered by "the accomplices of terrorists," referring to Turkey and ISIL.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Putin, when he said on Wednesday that the Turkish action came after Russian planes successfully targeted the oil infrastructure used by ISIL.

More importantly, Lavrov alleged that Turkey benefited from the oil trade and said Russia will ask the UN Security Council to examine information on how terrorists are financed.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoan defied those claims on Thursday saying, "Those who claim we [AK Party] have brought petrol from Daesh [the Arabic term for ISIL], are required to prove their claims, otherwise I will call them [Russian leaders] slanderers."

This is not the first time Turkey has been accused of intermediating ISIL's oil. In July a senior Western official claimed that information gathered at the compound of Abu Sayyaf, ISIL's officer responsible for oil smuggling operations, pointed to high-level contacts between Turkish officials and high-ranking ISIL members, according to a report by the UK-based Guardian newspaper.

Turkey, which only started to take an active part in the international coalition against ISIL, reluctantly, and after two years, has also been accused of turning a blind eye to the crossing of militants into Syria to join ISIL, if not openly facilitating militants' border crossings to join ISIL in Syria.

While giving voice to veiled criticisms of Turkey's dubious dealings with ISIL, Western officials had refrained, until very recently, from directly critiquing Turkish authorities. Russia's recent disclosures indicate that Turkey may be the target of international scrutiny.

Law professor gives al-Bashir example, says trial of Turkey ruler may be possible in future

Günal Kurun, a professor of criminal law and the president of the Association for Human Rights Agenda, maintained that the current administration could only be tried in international tribunals if and when a new administration comes along and wants to clear the name of the country.

Kurun gave the example of Omar al-Bashir, the internationally ostracized leader of Sudan, who is currently being tried on 10 counts of crime, including five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes, and three counts of genocide according to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The law professor added that even though the legal aspects of Turkey's rulers such as Erdoan being tried in the ICC may not be certain, the political ramifications will be far reaching, even as far as to confine the rulers within Turkey by way of entry restrictions to other countries.

He explained to Today's Zaman that there are three parties that can bring up a court case in the ICC against an individual.

To begin with, the prosecutor of the ICC can initiate an investigation, as can a state party to the Rome statute and also the UN Security Council (UNSC) may refer investigations to the ICC, acting to address a threat to international peace and security.

There are four instances where individuals can be tried at the ICC. Those are on charges of genocide, aggression, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Kurun said it is possible for the UNSC to ascertain Turkey as aiding ISIL, which is held as an international terrorist organization, but added that without the cooperation of the member state, not much could be done in terms of the investigation.

Erdoan's tacit acknowledgment of weapons filled trucks en-route Syria

Also, the question of whether President Erdoan should be tried at the (ICC) as an individual stemming from allegations that he had knowledge of, if not actively facilitated, the transfer of weapons-filled trucks to radical groups in Syria, claimed by many to be ISIL.

The issue of Turkey's transportation of arms to Syria came to the fore early in 2014, when an anonymous tip led to the search of a number of trucks on the suspicion of weapons smuggling. It was later discovered that the vehicles where actually en route to Syria and belonged to the National Intelligence Organization (MT).

The first stop-and-search took place in Hatay province on Jan. 1, 2014. Another anonymous tip led to three more trucks being intercepted in Turkey's southern Adana province on Jan. 19, 2014.

Erdoan who was prime minister at the time, said in a TV program immediately after the search of the trucks became public that they were carrying aid supplies to Turkmens in Syria. On the program, Erdoan appeared to be particularly angry with the prosecutor for having demanded the search of the trucks to be recorded on video and described the search as "treason."

However, Syrian-Turkmen Assembly Vice Chairman Hussein al-Abdullah said in January 2014 no trucks carrying aid had arrived from Turkey.

Then, this Tuesday, Erdoan seemingly validated claims that the Turkish government was sending weapon-filled trucks to radical groups in Syria by sarcastically asking, "So what if MT trucks were filled with weapons?"

Speaking to a room full of teachers on Tuesday gathered for Teachers' Day, Erdoan said, "You know of the treason regarding MT trucks, don't you? So what if there were weapons in them? I believe that our people will not forgive those who sabotaged this support."

In May, Selahattin Demirta, the leader of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) said in an election rally in the run up to the June 7 general election; "They [the AK Party and Erdoan] have committed many crimes. They have committed grave sins domestically and internationally, and now there is the possibility that they may be tried at the ICC."

Former ECtHR judge says US-Nicaragua case sets precedent

Rza Türmen, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and one of Turkey's leading expert in international law, told Today's Zaman that a powerful country like the United States was in the past tried and found guilty by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of aiding and abetting militants in the Central American country of Nicaragua, and that Turkey is no exception.

In 1984, the hitherto relatively unknown country of Nicaragua took the US to the ICJ on the ground that it was responsible for illegal military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua between 1981 and 1984.

In April 1981, US terminated aid to Nicaragua and in September 1981, according to Nicaragua, the United States "decided to plan and undertake activities directed against Nicaragua."

The armed opposition to the new Nicaraguan government was mainly conducted by the Fuerza Democratica Nicaragüense (FDN) and Alianza Revolucionaria Democratica (ARDE). Initial US support to these groups fighting against the Nicaraguan government (called "contras") was covert.

"Turkey does not have the right to intervene in the affairs of another state. However, if the trucks of weapons may be true, as the President [Erdoan] said, then Turkey will have intervened in the internal affairs of another country," Türmen said.

He added that the UN Security Council is able to initiate the investigations at the ICC, which tries individuals who are charged with committing crime against humanity rather than countries, such as the example with Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir.

The former judge did note however that Turkey does not recognize the ICC and that it was very unlikely for Erdoan to be tried there, but added that even being uttered in the same breath as such allegations would be enough to tarnish the reputation of any leader in the international forum.

Professor: Erdoan hoped to lead bloc of countries from Tunisia to Syria

According to Baskn Oran, a professor at Ankara University's Faculty of Political Sciences, Erdoan hoped, after the Arab Spring revolts began in 2011, to lead a bloc of countries, ranging from Tunisia to Syria, all headed by Islamist Muslim Brotherhood governments.

Oran wrote in a June article that when Erdoan saw "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was blocking this dream; [he] gave orders that arms were to be sent to opposition forces in Syria with the intent of helping to topple Assad."

Oran stated that in sending those weapons, the Erdoan government clearly violated the United Nations General Assembly's Resolution 2,625 made on Oct. 24, 1970.

Resolution 2,625 clearly reads that "no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State."

Hariri Tribunal set up UN Security Council serves as reminder

In 2005 the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1,595, to establish a commission to assist Lebanese authorities in their investigation of the assassination of former Prime Minister Refik Hariri in Beirut, which took place on Feb. 14, 2005.

Under the resolution, the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) was formed and investigated the assassination for four years, but was later superseded by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), also referred to as the Hariri Tribunal, in March 2009.

The United Nations investigation initially implicated high-level Lebanese and Syrian security officers in Hariri's killing, according to the online news portal Arrest warrants were issued by the tribunal, demanding the arrests of four Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists.

[Source: Todays Zaman, Ankara, 26Nov15]

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small logoThis document has been published on 30Nov15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.