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 sentencing of Ms. Eren Keskin, prominent human rights lawyer from Turkey and co-president of the Human Rights Association in Turkey (İHD), one of FIDH member organisations in Turkey. For almost thirty years, Eren Keskin has contributed to the protection of minority rights, countered violence against women, and campaigned to challenge militarism and end torture. She is the founder of a legal office providing pro bono services for transgender persons and women who were raped or sexually abused by the national security forces. From 2013 to 2016, Eren Keskin held the title of ‘co-editor-in-chief’ for Özgür Gündem (‘Free Agenda’)[1], as a form of support of the imprisoned editorial staff. An honorary member of the Paris Bar Association, Eren Keskin is the winner of multiple international awards for her peace and human rights work, including the 2018 Helsinki Civil Society Award[2].
According to the information received, on March 30, 2018, Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Eren Keskin to seven and a half years in jail in relation to some articles published inÖzgür Gündem during the time when she was co-editor-in chief. According to the court’s decision, the articles have “degraded” the Turkish nation and “insulted” the Turkish president.
The Observatory recalls that a total of more than 120 cases have been lodged against Eren Keskin because of her role as co-editor-in chief for Özgür Gündem[3] and that, as of June 2018, 47 of them are still pending. In addition to these 47 cases, Eren Keskin is also one of the nine defendants[4] in another ongoing prosecution, which includes terrorism-related offences. This prosecution carries the risk of a sentence of up to 24 years in prison. On June 4, 2018, the ninth hearing in this case was held and the trial was further postponed to October 10, 2018. On the same day, Eren Keskin’s lawyers requested to lift the travel ban in force against her, which the court refused.
Six of the more than 120 cases filed against her have resulted in court rulings with all appeal options already exhausted. The convictions are for ‘insulting the President’ and for ‘failure to publish article corrections in the newspaper’. Fines of 72,000 TL (approximately 14,500 Euros) have been imposed upon Eren Keskin. Failure to pay the outstanding monetary fines would result in approximately 8,5 years of imprisonment.
In a further 69 cases, Eren Keskin has been found guilty and condemned to a cumulative sentence of 12,5 years and a fine of 460,000 TL (approximately 93,000 Euros, in particular due to following offenses: ‘spreading propaganda for an armed terrorist organisation’ (Law on Fight against Terrorism, Article 7(2)), ‘denigrating the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, institutions and organs of the State’ (Turkish Criminal Code, Article 301), ‘insulting the President’ (Turkish Criminal Code, Article 299)[5], ‘failure to publish article corrections in the newspaper’ (Press Law, Article 18), ‘revealing the identity of the accused’ (Press Law, Article 21(c)), and ‘insult’ (Turkish Criminal Code, Article 125). At the time of the publication of this Urgent Appeal, appeal procedures against these decisions are still ongoing.
In addition to indictments related to her editor-in-chief title with Özgür Gündem, Eren Keskin has also been charged for statements she made after the shooting of a father and child by the police in South-Eastern Mardin’s Kızıltepe district in 2004[6], and for an article she wrote in 2016 on alleged abuses by the armed forces, entitled ‘The Radical Evil ’.
In addition to the mounting indictments, Eren Keskin’s ongoing work as a human rights lawyer is challenged as well: the legal team of the Office of the President of Turkey has recently filed an application to the Istanbul Bar Association to impose disciplinary measures on Eren Keskin, which may result in disbarment.
Of all the cases brought against Eren Keskin until today, only four have been concluded in her favour, either due to decisions of acquittal or due to the statute of limitations.
The Observatory strongly condemns the endless judicial harassment of Ms. Eren Keskin as it is a clear retaliation of her human rights activities and urges the authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment against her, including at the judicial level and in particular to lift the travel ban in force.
The Observatory expresses its utmost concerns over Ms. Eren Keskin’s ongoing judicial harassment, which occurs in the context of an ongoing crackdown against human rights defenders in Turkey[7].
Until all charges are dropped, the Observatory urges the authorities to ensure all proceedings against Ms. Eren Keskin are carried out in compliance with her right to a fair trial, as protected under international law.
Actions requested:
Please write to the authorities in Turkey, urging them to:
  1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Eren Keskin;
  2. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Eren Keskin and against all human rights defenders in Turkey;
  3. Until all charges are dropped, ensure that all proceedings against Ms. Eren Keskin are carried out in compliance with her right to a fair trial, as protected under international law;
  4. Immediately lift the travel ban in force against Ms. Eren Keskin and refrain from further hindering her freedom of movement;
  5. 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, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;
  6. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.
Addresses:
  • President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31
  • Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yıldırım. Email: ozelkalem@basbakanlik.gov.tr
  • Minister of Justice, Mr. Bekir Bozdağ. E-mail: ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
  • Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30
  • Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
  • Ambassador Mr. Ali Naci Koru, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: mission.turkey@ties.itu.int

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