Turkey: Orhan Kemal Cengiz, lawyer and journalist | Letter

Re: Orhan Kemal Cengiz

To: Mr. Ercument Yilmaz

From: Greg Allen, LRWC

Date: 2008-02-25

Orhan Kemal Cengiz is a lawyer and journalist who has worked to defend human rights in Turkey for 15 years. He is a founding member of a number of human rights initiatives in Turkey, including Amnesty International Turkey.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz has been threatened and intimidated because of his legal work on behalf of one of three men killed in an attack on a Christian publishing house in April 2007. These threats began to intensify in November 2007 when the trial of the individuals accused of the killings began in the southeastern province of Malatya. That same month, Orhan Kemal Cengiz saw an article in a local newspaper in Malatya that contained information he believes could only have been obtained through the interception of his telephone and electronic communications about the case.

He later learned of a letter sent to the Malatya prosecutor accusing him of involvement in the Christian publishing house killings and containing a variety of other information designed to erode his reputation and make him a target. In January 2007, Orhan Kemal Cengiz received a letter purporting to be a letter of support but in fact containing both veiled and direct threats to his safety. The contents of this letter indicated that it had been written by the same person or people who had written the letter to the Malatya prosecutor.

Orhan Kemal Cengiz has asked authorities to provide him with a bodyguard to protect his personal safety while he continues to work toward bringing those responsible for the Christian publishing house killings to justice. The authorities have not yet granted this request, and the personal safety of Orhan Kemal Cengiz remains in jeopardy.

Failure to protect and investigate violations of the rights of Orhan Kemal Cengiz constitutes an egregious breach of Turkey’s duties under binding international laws and principles including those set out in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) to which Turkey is a signatory and other declarations including but not limited to the International Covenant of Economic and Social Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

LRWC respectfully urges your government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional pacts and covenants ratified by Turkey; and ensure the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1998, in particular article 1 which provides that “every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international levels”.

Turkey, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, is bound by the Basic Principles on the Rights of Lawyers, adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 118 (1990). Article 16 of this document states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.

Article 17 of the same document state

Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.

Article 17.1 of the ICCPR states that “[n]o one shall be subjected to the arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.” Article 17.2 states that “[e]veryone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” These provisions reflect Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In paragraph 1 of the General Comment on this provision’s implementation (General Comment 16), the Human Rights Committee notes that “this right is required to be guaranteed against all such interferences and attacks whether they emanate from State authorities or from natural or legal persons.” The government of Turkey, as a signatory to the ICCPR, has a duty to protect Orham Kemal Cengiz from the unlawful interception of his communications even if the interception did not emanate from the state itself.

LRWC calls for an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats, intimidation and illegal surveillance of Orhan Kemal Cengiz, for the results to be made public, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. In the interim, LRWC also calls for the government of Turkey to provide Orhan Kemal Cengiz with immediate protection in the form of a bodyguard, as he has requested. Finally, LRWC calls upon the government of Turkey to take swift and effective action to ensure the security of all human rights defenders so they can continue to carry out their legitimate and important work defending human rights.

Please advise LRWC by mail, email or fax of the actions that the government of Turkey is taking to:

1. Ensure the present and future safety of Orhan Kemal Cengiz, and;
2. Investigate the threats against this human rights defender with the goal of identifying the person(s) responsible and bringing them to trial.

LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.