TUR 002 / 0321 / OBS 039.3
April 21, 2022
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.
The Observatory has been informed about the acquittal and ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan, a prominent human rights lawyer and Co-Chairperson of the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği – İHD).
On April 19, 2022, the Ankara 19th Heavy Penal Court announced the acquittal of Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan of the charge of “membership to an illegal armed organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Criminal Code of Turkey) for lack of evidence. This charge stemmed from an investigation conducted by the prosecutor’s office into Mr. Türkdoğan’s peaceful human rights activities in his capacity as İHD Co-Chairperson. Particularly, Mr. Türkdoğan was targeted for his public statements on Abdullah Öcalan’s detention conditions in İmralı Prison .
The Observatory welcomes the acquittal of Mr. Türkdoğan but recalls that since December 2021, Öztürk Türkdoğan is facing two additional criminal proceedings solely aimed at targeting his and İHD’s peaceful human rights activities and freedom of expression. Mr. Türkdoğan faces the charge of “degrading the Turkish nation, state of the Turkish Republic and institutions and organs of the sate” (Article 301 of the Criminal Code) before the Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance in relation to an article titled “Stop Denying the Armenian Genocide for Justice and Truth” published by İHD on its website on April 24, 2017. If convicted and sentenced on this charge, Mr. Türkdoğan faces between six months and two years of imprisonment.
In addition, Öztürk Türkdoğan faces the charge of “insult” (Article 125/3 of the Criminal Code) before the Ankara 60th Criminal Court of First Instance in relation to an İHD statement published on June 29, 2018, condemning a public statement made by the Interior Minister of Turkey targeting, threatening and insulting civil society organisations, politicians and the population. The first hearing in this case was supposed to take place on February 18, 2022, but was postponed until May 2022, after the judge came up with a baseless excuse. If convicted and sentenced, Mr. Türkdoğan could face up to two years of imprisonment under this charge.
The Observatory underlines that İHD and its members have been subjected to judicial harassment and intimidations by the authorities for years because of their peaceful human rights activities and exercise of freedom of expression and association, including the sentencing of Ms. Eren Keskin, Co-President of the İHD, and the threats and acts of stigmatisation against the organisation.
The Observatory condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Mr. Türkdoğan and urges the authorities in Turkey to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of harassment against him, including at the judicial level, and drop all charges pressed against him in the framework of the above-mentioned criminal cases.
The Observatory further urges the authorities in Turkey to put an end to the targeting of İHD and all human rights defenders and organisations in the country. The Observatory more generally calls on the authorities to ensure that all human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.
Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Öztürk Türkdoğan, all İHD members, as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Mr. Öztürk Türkdoğan, İHD members and all other human rights defenders in Turkey, as well as against İHD and all organisations engaged in legitimate human rights activities in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
· President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Mr. Bekir Bozdağ. Email: email@example.com.
· Ambassador Mr. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
· Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.
 Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), has been imprisoned in İmralı Island since 1999 serving an aggravated life sentence without the possibility of conditional release. He has been subjected to severe isolation for extended periods of time while imprisoned, including bans on visits by lawyers and family members, which the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2014 to be a violation of Article 3 of the Convention in its judgment Öcalan v. Turkey (No. 2). The conditions of Öcalan’s detention, including extreme social isolation in İmralı Island, has also been documented by the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).