JUDICIAL HARASSMENT AGAINST THE SATURDAY MOTHERS
23 February 2021
The Human Rights Association would like to inform you about the judicial harassment against the Saturday Mothers and kindly requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.
Description of the situation:
On 18 November 2020, an İstanbul court of first instance charged 46 participants of Saturday Mothers’ peaceful vigils with violating Article 32 of Law No. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations for “unarmed participation in an unauthorized assembly and refusal to disperse despite warnings” after accepting an indictment drafted by the Terrorist Offenses Investigation Bureau of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office based on Saturday Mothers’ 700th vigil, which was banned, arguing that the grounds for the ban was to guarantee “national security, public order, general morality, general health and to prevent the commission of crimes.”
Although no prior permission or approval is required to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly under Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution, the law’s restrictive nature and its arbitrary application have been used to hinder the exercise of the right to assembly. Moreover, reading of a press release, which the Saturday Mothers have held for 699 weeks until the ban, does not even require edict under the law. Yet the participants now face up to three years imprisonment. The first hearing of the case will be held on 25 March 2021.
Following the 12 September 1980 coup d’état, enforced disappearance cases became prevalent prominently in Eastern and Southeastern Turkey in the 1990s. It is estimated that a total of 1,352 individuals were subjected to enforced disappearance in Turkey.
In 1992 İHD initiated a campaign for individuals subjected to enforced disappearance in custodial and extra-custodial places, which then evolved into the peaceful vigils of Saturday Mothers. Since 27 May 1995 families of the disappeared have been holding weekly peaceful vigils every Saturday at noon in İstanbul’s Galatasaray Square demanding that the authorities disclose the fates and whereabouts of their loved ones and perpetrators be held accountable before the courts.
On 25 August 2018, marking the 700th week of the vigils since 1995, the police used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets against the protesters, including families of the disappeared, human rights defenders and members of the parliament, as well as journalists covering the vigil. Then the law enforcement arrested 47 peaceful protesters, who were released a day later, exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, guaranteed under both domestic and international human rights law. During the crackdown by the law enforcement 12 protesters were subjected to torture and ill-treatment as was documented by medical examination reports drafted by physicians affiliated with the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT). Yet the authorities did not launch an investigation into allegations of use of excessive force, torture and ill-treatment by the law enforcement. Instead the authorities are now prosecuting the Saturday Mothers’ vigil participants who were simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
İHD kindly invites you to support its urgent appeal and take action calling on the Turkish government:
- To stop judicial harassment against the Saturday Mothers’ peaceful vigil participants;
- To promptly launch an effective investigation into allegations of use of excessive force, torture and other forms of ill-treatment;
- To guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for everyone.
Human Rights Association