The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continuing arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mss. Aycan Çiçek, Ebru Timtik and Oya Aslan and Messrs. Aytaç Ünsal, Barkın Timtik , Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğluand, Selçuk Kozağaçlı as well as the continuing judicial harrassment of Mss. Ayşegül Çağatay , Didem Baydar Ünsal, Ezgi Çakır, Naciye Demir, Şükriye Erden, Yağmur Ereren , Yaprak Türkmen and Zehra Özdemir and Messrs. Ahmet Mandacı , Özgür Yılmaz and Süleyman Gökten, a total of 19 prominent human rights lawyers from the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği, ÇHD). The human rights lawyers represented clients in cases such as Soma and Ermenek mining massacres, forced re-locations due to urban transformation projects, police violence and torture incidents, and others being prosecuted for their opinions.
According to the information received, the Supreme Court of Turkey is currently examining the case of 18 lawyers, namely Mss. Aycan Çiçek, Ayşegül Çağatay, Didem Baydar Ünsal, Ebru Timtik, Ezgi Çakır, Naciye Demir, Şükriye Erden, Yağmur Ereren, Yaprak Türkmen and Zehra Özdemir and Messrs. Ahmet Mandacı, Aytaç Ünsal, Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu, Özgür Yılmaz, Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Süleyman Gökten, who were convicted of terrorism-related charges, and whose sentences were upheld by the Court of Appeals.
In the last months of 2017, 17 lawyers, all members of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), were arrested and later detained. Their arrest was part of a crackdown against a total of 20 lawyers who were prosecuted on terrorism-related charges for their activities as human rights lawyers.
Over the course of the trial, their right to a fair trial was regularly violated, and the case was based on “evidences” such as the statement of an anonymous witness and their prison visits to their clients. On September 14, 2018, all 17 detained lawyers were released by İstanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court, after a week of hearings. Nevertheless, the same panel of judges ordered the re-detention of 12 lawyers, in less than 24 hours following their initial decision, after the Prosecutor contested the decision. Subsequently, the panel of judges who had ordered their release was taken from the case and moved to other courts.
On March 20, 2019, İstanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court sentenced the 18 above-mentioned lawyers to between 3 years, 1 month, 15 days and 18 years, 9 months in prison. This ruling was upheld by İstanbul Court of Appeals on October 8, 2019 and is now pending before the Supreme Court. Ms. Oya Aslan’s case was separated.
Currently, 18 lawyers are convicted while seven, namely Mss. Aycan Çiçek and Ebru Timtik and Messrs. Aytaç Ünsal, Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu and Selçuk Kozağaçlı remain in detention. If their sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court, all convicted lawyers will go to prison to serve their sentences. Ms. Oya Aslan also remains in detention while the case against her is still pending.
On February 3, 2020, the eight above-mentioned imprisoned lawyers went on a hunger strike, demanding fair trials both for their clients and themselves. While six of them stopped their strike during the process due to health reasons on March 10, 2020, Ms. Ebru Timtik and Mr. Aytaç Ünsal continued their hunger strike. The two lawyers decided to turn their hunger strike into an indefinite death fast on April 5, 2020, Lawyers’ Day in Turkey, and both have been on a death fast since then.
The Observatory firmly condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of ÇHD lawyers, which appear to be only aimed at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities as human rights lawyers. The Observatory expresses its utmost concern about the ongoing death fast of Ms. Ebru Timtik and Mr. Aytaç Ünsal which is threatening their life. The Observatory calls on the Turkish authorities to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Turkey.
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mss. Aycan Çiçek, Ebru Timtik and Oya Aslan and Messrs. Aytaç Ünsal, Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu and Selçuk Kozağaçlı, as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Mss. Aycan Çiçek, Ebru Timtik and Oya Aslan and Messrs. Aytaç Ünsal, Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu and Selçuk Kozağaçlı, as well as all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in Turkey, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mss. Aycan Çiçek, Ayşegül Çağatay, Didem Baydar Ünsal, Ebru Timtik, Ezgi Çakır, Naciye Demir, Oya Aslan, Şükriye Erden, Yağmur Ereren, Yaprak Türkmen and Zehra Özdemir and Messrs. Ahmet Mandacı, Aytaç Ünsal, Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu, Özgür Yılmaz, Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Süleyman Gökten, and all human rights defenders in Turkey;
iv. Ensure that the case of the 18 ÇHD lawyers before the Supreme Court is reviewed with due respect of their right to a fair trial while recognising the serious violations of this right during the trial and appeal phases;
v. Ensure the health and safety of Mss. Aycan Çiçek and Oya Aslan and Messrs. Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu and Selçuk Kozağaçlı, and particularly of Mr. Aytaç Ünsal and Ms. Ebru Timtik who have been on a death fast, as welle as of all other detained human rights defenders, against the increasing threat of Covid-19, and consider all appropriate measures to protect their health and safety including their immediate release;
vi. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 12;
vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.
· President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: +90 (312) 525 58 31. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Minister of Justice, Abdülhamit Gül. Email: email@example.com. Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70
· Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
· Ambassador Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
· Ambassador Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.
Paris-Geneva, June 8, 2020
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
FIDH.org – 08.06.2020