UN Press Release

UN experts seek release of all rights defenders as clampdown worsens

GENEVA (14 July 2017) — A group of United Nations experts* has today called on the Government of Turkey to immediately release nine human rights defenders and two foreign trainers who are being questioned over alleged membership of a terrorist organization.

Ten of the detainees, including the directorof Amnesty International in Turkey, Ms. Idil Eser, were attending a workshop for human rights defenders on 5 July when they were held.
 
The experts expressed concern at reports that a confidential investigation has been opened by the Prosecutor against the group, preventing defence lawyers from accessing the case files, and at reports that a smear campaign is being conducted against them.

Their detention comes only a month afterMr. Taner Kiliç, who has chaired Amnesty International in Turkey since2014, was also detained with six other lawyers in the western city of Izmir.

“The arrest of these human rights defenders,including prominent figures, is a further illustration of the witch-hunt taking place in Turkey,” the experts said in a joint statement. “They are among thousands of people currently in detention on terrorism charges,along with political activists, lawyers, journalists and others critical of government policy.”

The experts added: “The Turkish authorities are constantly citing security considerations, in particular the fight against terrorism and the need to avoid another attempted coup, to justify targeting dissent and criticism. This is having the effect of curtailing people’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and is particularly alarming.”

“These rights should be restricted only when strictly necessary in a democratic society and when proportionate to the interest being protected.”

The experts warned that the overall human rights picture in Turkey was continuing to worsen.

“We have raised the alarm over the critical situation of fundamental freedoms in Turkey on various occasions and all the signs show that it is only going to escalate,” they said.

“We call on the Human Rights Council to address the general deterioration of human rights in the country.”

The human rights defenders detained with Ms. Eser at the workshop are Ms. Nalan Erkem and Ms. Özlem Dalkýranof the Citizen’s Assembly; Mr. Veli Acu and Mr. Günal Kurºun of the HumanRights Agenda Association; Mr. Seyhmus Özbekli of the Rights Initiative;Ms.Ilknur Üstün of the Women’s Coalition; and Mr Nejat Taºtan of the EqualRights Watch Association. The two detained trainers are Mr. Ali Gharawiof Sweden and Mr. Peter Steudtner of Germany.

(*) The experts: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi,Special Rapporteur freedomof peaceful assembly and association;Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of humanrights defenders; Mr. José AntonioGuevara Bermúdez, current Chair-Rapporteur of the WorkingGroup on Arbitrary Detention; Mr.Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independenceof judges and lawyers.

ENDS

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groupsare part of what is known as the SpecialProcedures of the HumanRights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent expertsin the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independentfact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific countrysituations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receivea salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organizationand serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests,please contact Marion Mondain (+41 22 91 79 540 / freeassembly@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries relatedto other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights — MediaUnit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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