Hakikat Adalet Hafıza Merkezi (Hafıza Merkezi, engl. Truth Justice Memory Center) is an independent human rights organization set up by a group of lawyers, journalists, academicians and human rights activists in November 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Hafıza Merkezi aims to contribute to peace and democracy by way of uncovering truth concerning gross violations of human rights, supporting survivors in their pursuit of justice and contributing to dissemination of narratives outside of official discourse in Turkey.
In line with these objectives, the Center’s long term vision is to support a process of coming to terms with past human rights violations in Turkey. As a first step of this vision, the Center adopted a transitional approach and started working on a grave human rights violation; “enforced disappearances”.
Since its foundation, Center’s main activities have been in the areas of; i) documentation of grave human rights violations in line with universal standards, ii) monitoring and documenting of precedent legal cases, and iii) dissemination of truth about these violations to wider sectors of society.
Keeping in mind that a process towards peace is indispensable to any efforts of recognition of past violations to have any impact, we identified peace as a new field of work during and after the 2013-2015 peace process in Turkey. Since then, the Center has been conducting work with the aim of learning from both the failed peace process in Turkey, and the different good practices around the world.
The recent shrinking of civil spaces that is the basis for democratic values and human rights in Turkey constitutes another significant context that recently reshaped our work. In 2015, Turkey entered a new, highly conflictual period following the collapse of the peace process. In 2016, this was followed by the state of emergencies declared after the failed coup attempt, which has since been instrumentalized to intimidate all opposition groups. In response to such dire political developments, the Center decided to widen its scope to also include monitoring and documenting of more recent human rights violations. It is in this context that we now define our activities geared towards supporting and strengthening of human rights defenders as a new field of work.
Fields of work
Based on the experiences and observations explained above, since 2018 Hafıza Merkezi has been reviewing and re-evaluating its fields of work. While maintaining our focus on enforced disappearances, dealing with the past, and the approach that advocates truth, justice and memory mechanisms of transitional justice, today we define our main pillars of work as follows;
- Memory and Peace Studies: To uncover the truth, we work on the documentation, reporting and memorialization of widespread and systematic human rights violations, in line with the universally accepted standards. In this framework, we work on the Database on Enforced Disappearances, carry out trainings and build ties with fields of arts and culture. Based on the observation that dealing with the past is possible only in an environment of peace, we also carry out activities that support the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue, mostly by way of learning both from the failed peace process in Turkey and good practices around the world.
- Tackling Impunity: We carry out legal studies to help victims of gross human rights violations in their struggles for justice. In these activities, we try to address the structural problems that stem from chronic impunity in crimes committed by state officials. The scope of our activities include, but are not limited to, legal documentation, legal analysis, trial monitoring, and interventions at national and international levels. This is also the field where we work for restoring the rule of law in Turkey, through joined advocacy efforts at national and international levels.
- Supporting Human Rights Defenders and Organizations: We carry out monitoring, reporting and support activities in response to increased crack down on rights defenders and shrinking civil space in Turkey. This area also includes activities geared towards finding new and innovative ways for defending human rights and sharing them with other civil society organizations.
- International Cooperation and Solidarity: We build ties and collaborations across NGO’s and individuals working in similar fields of peace, transitional justice and human rights in neighboring countries of the Caucasus, Middle East and North Africa. In the context of deteriorating human rights and shrinking civil space, the Center also carries out international advocacy targeting European Commission, European Union and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe countries, particularly in partnership with the sister organization Verein für Wahrheit, Gerechtigkeit und Gedächtnisarbeit set up in Berlin in 2018. Our partnerships are actively ongoing with organizations working in fields close to ours in countries like Argentina, Colombia, Bosnia, Serbia, who have similar experiences of conflict and trauma.