Malaysia wrong in deporting Turkish family under UN protection, says NGO

In deporting the Komis family, Shamini said the Malaysian government has violated the international principle of non-refoulement. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
In deporting the Komis family, Shamini said the Malaysian government has violated the international principle of non-refoulement. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 30 — Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu today condemned the Pakatan Harapan government for deporting a family of six, including four minors, back to Turkey where they will likely face prosecution, despite them being protected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Shamini said that the move to deport Turkish chemistry teacher Arif Komis and his family was disgraceful given that they run a very high risk of human rights violations back in Ankara.

“The decision to deport the Komis family, including the couple’s four daughters who are minors at such short notice, is deplorable, especially in light of reports that they are being deported over accusations of Mr.  Arif Komis’s membership of a faith-based group. The family is at risk of serious human rights violations or abuses back in their country,” she said in a statement.

In deporting the Komis family, she said the Malaysian government has violated the international principle of non-refoulement which prohibits the transfer of anyone to a place where there would be a real risk to their safety.

“The Malaysian authorities must never deport individuals where there is clear evidence of the human rights violations they may face at their destination.

“The Turkish government must ensure the safety and security of the family, and that they are protected from torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The family should immediately be released unless there is credible evidence of internationally recognisable criminal acts committed by Mr. Komis. Any proceedings brought against them should likewise comply with international standards on fair trials,” she said.

According to the Time International School where Komis was working as a chemistry teacher, Komis, his wife, and their four daughters were taken from their home in Kuala Lumpur on the evening of August 28 by men believed to be Malaysian police.

A message from one of the daughters sent to friends and relatives indicated they were being held by the Immigration department and scheduled for deportation to Turkey on August 29.

Komis’ school has been accused of being affiliated with the faith-based Gulen movement, deemed a “terror” group by the Turkish government and accused of masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said Malaysia will continue to crack down on members of the Gulen movement during a visit to the republic last month.

Malaysia previously extradited wanted men by the Turkish government suspected of involvement with Feto, in what Ankara claimed is a group led by US-based exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen.

In 2017, three Turkish men associated with Gulen — Turgay Karaman, İhsan Aslan and İsmet Özçelik — were deported from Malaysia to Turkey despite international warnings over the risk of torture.

Ozcelik, a Turkish academic, in July was given a jail sentence of almost 10 years without even being able to present his final defence. Karaman, a school principal, was also sentenced to six years in prison the same month.

Since the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, the Turkish government is reported to have pressured its allies around the world to take legal action against suspected supporters of the Gulen group whom they accuse of masterminding the coup attempt.

Amnesty International and other human rights organisations have documented instances of arbitrary detention, unfair trial and torture of detainees suspected of belonging to the Gulen movement.

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