Human Rights Defenders Under Attack!

On 5 July 2017, police raided an Istanbul Büyükada hotel where a group of human rights defenders had gathered to conduct a training session. As a result, 9 members of some of the leading human rights organisations in Turkey were detained, along with 3 instructors in charge of conducting training seminars. However, names of those 3 people have yet to be disclosed.  It was only recently that the President of Amnesty International’s Turkey Branch Taner Kılıç was detained and then arrested.

Names of those detained:

İdil ESER and Veli ACU (Amnesty International Turkey)
Nalan ERKEM and Özlem DALKIRAN (Citizens’ Assembly)
Günal KURŞUN (Human Rights Agenda Association)
İlknur ÜSTÜN (Women’s Coalition)
Nejat TAŞTAN (Association for Monitoring Human Rights)
Şeyhmuz ÖZBEKLİ (Initiative for Rights) 
Ali GARAWI (Moderator)

In the past two years, a number of human rights organisations have been shut down by the government (like Gündem Çocuk) and a number of HR organisations (such as IHD, TIHV, and Gündem Çocuk) have faced investigations concerning reports they have released (such as the Cizre report). Additionally, Human Rights Defenders have been victims of detention, and arrests, and have had court cases opened against them as a result of their organizational activities (The hundreds of cases opened against IHD directors and IHD members is a perfect example of this).

We want to remind the government, as well as the Investigation Authorities:

The “Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders” approved and declared by the UN on 9 December 1998 outlines the rights and duties of human rights defenders, as well as the responsibilities of governments towards human rights defenders.

The declaration emphasises the fact that defending human rights is in fact a human right itself.  Everyone has the right to defend human rights.  Human rights defenders are defined as persons acting individually or in concert with others to defend and develop the cause of human rights. The European Union developed “Guiding Principles” in this regard.

States have committed to recognising and protecting human rights defenders, as well as pledging to assist in their activities in numerous documents. The detainment of human rights defenders reveals the extent to which the rights of human rights defenders to personal freedom and security is jeopardised.

This is our call:

  • The human rights defenders presently detained must be immediately released!
  • The propagators of these unfounded accusations must be investigated!
  • The persecution and harassment of human rights defenders must end!