Turkey: Call for the Release of 15 Lawyers and One Journalist Arbitrarily Detained | Letter

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Wednesday, August 2, 2013

Mr. Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey
Cumhurbaskanligi 06100 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 468 5026
Email: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr

Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik 06573 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: + 90 312 417 0476
Email: receptayyip.erdogan@basbakanlik.gov.tr

Mr. Beşir Atalay, Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and Counter Terrorism
Fax: 00 90 (312) 422 13 98
Email: besir.atalay@tbmm.gov.tr

Mr. Sadullah Ergin, Justice Minister
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanligi, 06659 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: + 90 312 414 62 26


Re: Call for the release of 15 lawyers and one journalist arbitrarily detained.

Dear Sirs,

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who campaign internationally for advocacy rights and advocates in danger and on rule of law issues. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) was created in 1997 by the International Federation of Human Rights (Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme)(FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) to intervene, prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders.

In November, 2011, 46 lawyers, three law office employees, and one journalist were arrested in Turkey. They were charged with offences related to their participation in the legal representation of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The mass trial of these lawyers has been ongoing since July 16, 2012.

Of those arrested and charged, 15 lawyers and one journalist have been wrongfully denied release and remain in prison awaiting trial. Still detained are lawyers M. Cengiz ÇIÇEK,  M. Dogan ERBAŞ, M. Emran EMEKÇI, Mme Hadice KORKUT, M. Ibrahim BILMEZ, M. Ömer GŰNEŞ, M. Faik Őzgür EROL, M. Mehmet Sani KIZILKAYA, Mme Asya ŰLKER, M. Muhdi ŐZTŰZÜN, M. Muharem ŞAHIN, M. Mehmet BAYRAKTAR, M. Sabahattin KAYA, M. Bedri KURAN, M. Fuat COŞOCAK and journalist Cengiz KAPMAZ.

As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Turkey is legally obligated to ensure that individuals within its territory enjoy, without discrimination, the right to be presumed innocent, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained, the right to pre-trial release and to be brought to trial within a reasonable time and the right to obtain a remedy in relation to any violation of these rights. These rights are also recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). By continuing to detain the 15 lawyers and one journalist named above, Turkey is violating the right of each individual and Turkey’s legal obligations to ensure those rights.

Guarantees of the presumption of innocence are set out in Article 11(1) of the UDHR and Article 14(2) of the ICCPR, which states: “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”[1] Further, under Articles 3 and 9 of the UDHR and Article 9(1) of the ICCPR all persons in Turkey have an internationally protected right to life, liberty, and security of the person and the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention. The ECHR similarly guarantees rights to the presumption of innocence, liberty and pretrial release.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (HR Committee) has stated that, in order not to be considered arbitrary, pre-trial detention must be reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances, “for example, to prevent flight, interference with evidence, or the recurrence of crime.”[2] . The continued pre-trial detention of the Turkish lawyers and journalist is neither reasonable nor necessary considering the circumstances. Furthermore, the period of time these lawyers and the journalist have been detained far exceeds an appropriate or justifiable amount of time for charges to be determined at trial. The detention is a clear violation of their fundamental rights under international law and constitutes an egregious and unwarranted punishment in advance of trial.

Turkey has an obligation to comply with Article 9(3) of the ICCPR, which provides: “Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.” The persistent failure of the court to examine separately the applications for pre-trial release and to provide reasons for refusing release in reference to each of the detained lawyers has violated Turkey’s duty under Article 9(3) of the ICCPR.

In November 2012, the HR Committee reviewed Turkey’s compliance with the ICCPR and recommended that Turkey

…reduce the legal period of pre-trial detention in compliance with article 9 of the [ICCPR], and ensure that it is only used as an exceptional measure. The State party should guarantee the access of detainees to a lawyer, and to an effective and independent mechanism to challenge the lawfulness of their pre-trial detention.[3]

More extensive reviews of Turkey’s international law obligations to ensure pre-trial release are contained in two reports: Arrest and Detention of Lawyers in Turkey: Right to Pre-Trial Release, July 2012 and Joint brief to the Human Rights Committee, 106th Session, on pre-trial release rights in Turkey, September 2012. The latter report was submitted by LRWC and the FIDH-OMCT to the HR Committee. The Government of Turkey has previously been provided with copies of both these reports.

LRWC and FIDH-OMCT urge the government of Turkey to take all actions necessary to ensure:

1. The immediate release lawyers M. Cengiz Çiçek, M. Dogan Erbaş, M. Emran Emekçi, Mme Hadice Korkut, M. Ibrahim Bilmez, M. Ömer Güneş, M. Faik Őzgür Erol, M. Mehmet Sani Kizilkaya, Mme Asya Űlker, M. Muhdi Őztüzün, M. Muharem Şahin, M. Mehmet Bayraktar, M. Sabahattin Kaya, M. Bedri Kuran, M. Fuat Coşocak, and journalist M. Cengiz Kapmaz, in accordance with the requirements of international law; and,

2. The amendment of Article 102 of the Turkish Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows for lengthy pre-trial detention, to comply with the Turkey’s obligations under the ICCPR; and,

3. Compensation of those detained for the losses suffered in respect of the pre-trial detention, including lost livelihoods, reputations, family life, and liberty.

Please advise us of your response to these requests. LRWC and FIDH-OMCT continue to monitor the situation and will continue to call on the Government of Turkey to comply with its international law obligations. LRWC and FIDH-OMCT await your response.  Thank you for your attention to our concerns.


Gail Davidson

Executive Director
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada


Erika Heinrich, B.Comm., J.D.
LRWC Member

Karim Lahidji
President, FIDH


Gerald Staberock
Secretary General, OMCT


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UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

Mrs.Gabriela Knaul
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211
Geneva 10 Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 917 9006
E-mail: SRindependenceJL@ohchr.org

UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while countering terrorism
Mr. Ben Emmerson
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211
Geneva 10 Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 917 9656
Email: srct@ohchr.org

UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14, avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
facsimile: +41 22 9179006
e-mail: wgad@ohchr.org

Mr. Oğuz Demiralp, Ambassador
Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva
Ch. du Petit-Saconnex 28b – CP 271, CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 734 08 59
E-mail: mission.turkey@ties.itu.int

Mr. Izzet Selim Yenel, Ambassador
Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels
Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50

Mr. Ahmed Davudoglu, Foreign Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik, 06573 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 287 88 11

Mr. Idris Naim Şahin, Interior Minister
06644 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: + 90 312 418 17 95 / +90 312 418 7696

[1]Article 14(2) ICCPR

[2]Briefing to the Human Rights Committee, 106th Session (15 Oct. – 2 Nov.) Geneva from LRWC and FIDH – OMCT, para 38

[3]Human Rights Committee ‘Concluding observations on the initial report of Turkey adopted by the Committee at its 106th session, 15 October to 2 November’