Attempt to tackle rise in Europe’s 'honor crimes'

ISTANBUL - A report prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in an attempt to tackle the increasing rate of ’honor crimes’ across Europe says the problem has worsened in Europe and cooperation among countries is needed to deny safe harbor to guilty individuals

Attempt to tackle rise in Europe’s ’honor crimes’ As rates of "honor crimes" are on the rise throughout Europe, a new initiative has been submitted to the Council of Europe in an aim to bring the disturbing reality of such offenses to the forefront of the human rights agenda.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE, recently published a report prepared by John Austin from the United Kingdom Socialist group condemning what the report calls "honor crimes" and highlighting the urgent need to combat them.

"I do not want to single out any one country as such crimes are committed throughout Europe; however, as we are in Turkey I would like to draw attention to the fact that these numbers are also on the rise in this country,’’ Austin said in Istanbul yesterday.

The report confirms that the problem, far from diminishing, has worsened, including in Europe. In the report, PACE denounces the crimes and dismisses any form of excuse for them. The report states, "No tradition or culture can invoke any kind of honor to violate women’s fundamental rights."

Speaking at a press conference organized by PACE at the Istanbul Sofa Hotel yesterday, Austin highlighted that 231 "honor crimes" took place in Turkey in 2007; in the past five years, 167 honor crimes in Istanbul and 144 in Ankara were recorded.

Austin criticized that in many countries honor crimes are considered a mitigating factor whereas they should be an aggravating factor. Austin said countries need to draw up and put into effect national action plans to combat violence against women, including violence in the so-called name of honor. Many "honor crimes" are covered up and attributed to suicide.

Through his report, Austin has urged governments to carry out extensive investigations into these cases and crack down on murders that have been carried out as honor crimes. Moreover, Austin proposes that governments introduce either a complete database or statistics that take account of the different types of honor crimes so that the problem can be more thoroughly understood.

According to Austin, raising awareness in societies toward such crimes will play a big part in decreasing their numbers. The report calls for awareness-raising campaigns to change outlooks and behavior. When asked if documentaries broadcast on television were an effective method of raising awareness, Austin answered, "I believe they are, as they explicitly depict the reality that so many are unaware of."

In reference to a documentary broadcast on Britain’s Channel Four, "DISPATCHES ĞKilling for Honor," Austin was asked whether people in Britain were aware that honor crimes take place in their own country as such documentaries that are broadcast on British television often account only for honor crimes in countries such as Bangladesh and Turkey.

In response, Austin told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review that awareness schemes are being implemented in the United Kingdom, and when a case does occur in the UK, it takes full media coverage.

Cooperation key

"This is a phenomenon in the whole of Europe, and therefore it is crucial that all the countries involved cooperate to combat this issue all together," Austin said, adding that every guilty individual needs to be charged, and should any of them travel abroad, they should be subject to extradition requests.

Domestic violence was grossly denied and under-reported five years ago, Austin said, adding that this is the current situation with so-called honor crimes and countries have to work together to bring them to the fore and combat them accordingly.

Today, PACE will hold a meeting of the Network of Contact Parliamentarians involved in combating violence against women. Turkish State Minister for Women and Family Affairs Selma Aliye Kavaf and Yakin Ertürk, United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, will attend. The discussions will cover the preparation of a future Council of Europe convention and European parliaments’ contribution to the campaign by the United Nations Secretary General.

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