İHD Statement on Eren Keskin’s Conviction

Eren Keskin Is a Human Rights Defender!

Human Rights Cannot Be Put on Trial!


16 April 2022


An investigation was launched into İHD’s Co-Chairperson Emire Eren Keskin in 2016 for her symbolic role in 2014-2015 as the editor-in-chief of the daily Özgür Gündem, one of the heirs of the Kurdish free press tradition that was closed down through the emergency decree law no. 675 of 29 October 2016. Along with Ms. Keskin, a total of 9 intellectuals, authors, journalists and human rights defenders faced the same investigation and the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court delivered its ruling in the main Özgür Gündem trial on 15 February 2021. In its ruling (merits no. 2020/51, ruling no. 2021/11) the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court, with special jurisdiction and competence to hear criminal cases within the scope of the Anti-Terrorism Code (ATC), sentenced the daily’s managing editor İnan Kızılkaya, its editor-in-chief Emire Eren Keskin and its publisher Kemal Sanlıcı each to 6 years and 3 months imprisonment for membership in an illegal armed organization. İHD’s co-chairperson and the journalists appealed the ruling. The İstanbul Regional Court of Appeal’s 27th Penal Department upheld the first instance court’s conviction sentence in its judgment of 7 April 2022 (Judgement No. 2022/466).

Eren Keskin is a respectable human rights defender both in Turkey and the world; she is İHD’s co-chairperson. She is known for her clear and brave expression of her ideas. Thus, she often faces investigations and lawsuits that we can characterize as “judicial harassment.” İHD’s co-chairperson Eren Keskin has been targeted by the pro-government media, faced threats and physical assaults in the long course of her work for human rights.

Civil society activists, who work to achieve human rights and freedoms in Turkey, are targeted by the judiciary that acts as if it were the substitute of the executive branch because these activists exercise their constitutional rights in a legal and peaceful way. Activists undertake their rights advocacy work under the threat of reprisals. Administrative and judicial authorities in Turkey keep on infringing on their obligations set forth by international human rights conventions and covenants, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey. Critics face repression by the hand of the judiciary, while the authorities are insistent on prosecuting human rights defenders. This conviction sentence delivered for İHD’s Co-Chairperson Eren Keskin reveals the fact that such practices are commonly and systematically maintained.

Moreover, the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court’s reasoned ruling proves to be quite alarming. The court says that “there should be a local and national understanding of human rights” and criticizes Eren Keskin for not having such a mentality while putting it as grounds for conviction. And the İstanbul Regional Court of Appeal’s 27th Penal Department accepts such ground.

We have come across “a local and national understanding of human rights” neither in the government’s judicial reform document of 2019 nor in its human rights action plan of 2021.

Besides, we have not come across an understanding of the sort in the Declaration of Ethics for the Turkish Judiciary.

At this rate, what kind of a ground is this? Are there new parallel structures within the judiciary?

The Ministry of Justice and the Council of Judges and Prosecutors need to address these questions we have raised and do what is necessary, while the Court of Cassation should quash such an odd judgment.

We emphasize once again: Human rights are universal, and they are for everyone as is also stated in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is unacceptable for those who are ignorant of this mere fact to serve as judges. Human rights cannot be put on trial. Eren Keskin will continue living in Turkey and defending human rights.

Eren Keskin is not alone.

Human Rights Association