Contrary to what is believed, genocides have been carried out under the guise of the most beautiful pretexts. Justice, equality, independence, human rights, or democracy have been used to justify the killing of hundreds of thousands of people.
In Turkey, ‘justice’ continues to be the pretext for the massacre of people. One of the places where this massacre takes place is undoubtedly the prisons. According to a report prepared by the Human Rights Association as of April 2022, there are 1,517 patients in prisons, 651 of whom are severely ill. While the release of patients held in prisons is expected, unfortunately, new patients continue to be sent to prison. One of them is 86-year-old Mustafa Said Türk.
Mustafa Türk, who became dependent on care after suffering a brain hemorrhage in 2018, was taken from his home by ambulance to prison on the grounds that his prison sentence had been finalized, all under the name of ‘justice,’ with the cooperation of judges, prosecutors, police, prison authorities, and doctors.
The perpetrators of this collective massacre disregard different thoughts, beliefs, and methods of action and almost tolerate oppression against those with different ideologies, using the excuse that the majority is infallible. According to these proponents, there is no law better than the general election, and there is no need for any other law. When the majority is obtained in elections, there is no need to comply with other legal obligations or universal principles of law.
We don’t need to look far to understand how dangerous this mindset is. In the early 1920s in Germany, general elections helped form government coalitions that reflected public opinion trends. However, in the early 1930s, the same general elections held under a heavy social crisis and a racist propaganda atmosphere marked the end of democracy. By the time the German people could express themselves freely, the death toll had already reached tens of millions. Unfortunately, as in this example, the rule of the majority sometimes becomes synonymous with tyranny, enslavement, and discrimination.
To argue that power should be left to a majority group to reduce the suffering of minorities is either too naive or, conversely, too audacious. When we look at the political debates that accompanied the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, we see that the perpetrators of oppression always acted in the name of democracy. They even went so far as to compare their uprisings to the 1789 French Revolution, while likening the implementation of genocide against the Tutsis to the reign of Robespierre and his friends in the guillotine era, aimed at eliminating a privileged caste. Some Catholic priests even became complicit in the genocide by saying they should “side with the poor” and “understand their anger,” much like some individuals with the title of religious leaders do today.
One of the most important reasons why these events are worrying is not the attempt by the killers to give reasonable meaning to their abhorrent actions but rather the demonstration that sacred concepts such as justice and democracy can be easily distorted.
Today, we can see that concepts like justice, freedom, equality, and human rights are being used as instruments of oppression. Haven’t we seen the brutality of labeling the killing of innocent people with “justice”? Wasn’t the punishment of Mustafa Türk, who was taken to prison on a stretcher at the age of 86, carried out under the pretext of “justice”? Haven’t injustices such as the arrest of pregnant women at hospital doors, forcing babies to grow up in prison, and the eviction of people from their jobs and homes occurred? Didn’t judges claim they were restoring justice, and didn’t prosecutors and police claim to be working to establish justice?
We can say without hesitation that justice is an integral part of social life. It may be possible to live without bread, but being forced to live a life where justice is disregarded and the law is ignored is the greatest injustice done to people. Even though justice may not always prevail, people have demanded its realization, fought great battles for the rights of the rightful owner, even if it results in death. Unfortunately, the existence of a legal system alone does not guarantee the permanence and continuity of a just system, as the experience of Hitler’s Germany with its “unjust but formally flawless” legal system painfully demonstrated to everyone.
We see, as in the case of Mustafa Said Türk, that a lawyer or public servant who binds their conscience to the orders and desires of political power will not prioritize justice and will define fulfilling formal rules as doing their job.
We can say without hesitation that Mustafa Said Türk should not have been sentenced in the first place, but he was sentenced by legal professionals who disregarded justice. Now, the unjust sentence given to a 86-year-old, sick, and dependent person must be postponed without delay. Otherwise, due to negligence leading to death, the prosecution, prison authorities, forensic medicine institution, and doctors will be held responsible, even if it does not constitute another crime, under Article 83 of the Turkish Penal Code, for committing manslaughter through negligence.
Justice must prevail as soon as possible for not only Mustafa Said Türk but also for the 651 patients in prison who are on the brink of death. The justice we await must be real justice, not an excuse to beautify oppression.”