Re-trial of Leyla Zana and three other former Kurdish parliamentarians

In the tenth hearing of the re-trial of Leyla Zana and three other Kurdish former parliamentarians, who have been detained since 1994, the ICJ found that the defendants’ right to an independent and impartial tribunal as well as their right to liberty and security had been consistently violated.

Executive Summary

The re-trial of Leyla Zana, Selim Sadak, Hatip Dicle and Orhan Dogan, all Kurdish former parliamentary deputies, continued before No.1 Ankara State Security Court on 16 January 2004. The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers appointed an observer, Mr. Stuart Kerr, a barrister of England and Wales, to monitor and report on the re-trial.

Leyla Zana and her co-defendants had been convicted on 8 December 1994 by the Ankara State Security Court of “membership of an armed gang” contrary to Article 168 of the Turkish Penal Code and were sentenced each to a term of 15 years imprisonment. However, on 17 July 2001, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the said four former parliamentarians had not received a fair trial at the Ankara State Security Court which at the time of the trial included a military judge. The ECtHR held that the Ankara State Security Court, as composed then, was not “an independent and impartial tribunal within the meaning of Article 6 of the Convention.” Following this ruling, Leyla Zana and her three co-defendants are now being re-tried and ten hearings have been held to date at No.1 Ankara State Security Court. The ICJ appointed observers to monitor seven of the nine previous hearings of the re-trial.

On the basis of the observation of the hearing on 16 January 2004, the ICJ welcomes practices which indicate that certain aspects of the right to a fair trial were being respected. The ICJ is satisfied that during the hearing, the defendants were at no stage excluded from intervening in the proceedings and were able to hear legal arguments in full. No limitations were placed on public attendance at this hearing (although the ICJ has concerns about proposed limitations in the future, as discussed below) nor on any of the members of the defence team the exercise of their professional duties, led by main defence lawyer, Mr. Yusuf Alatas of the Ankara Bar. The ICJ welcomes the fact that exculpatory prosecution evidence has been adduced to the court to form part of its deliberations.

However, in addition to other numerous specific violations of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), such as the violation of the principles of the equality of arms, the independence and impartiality of the tribunal, the presumption of innocence, and the right to be tried within a reasonable time, the ICJ is concerned about the proposal by the judge to restrict the right to a public hearing by refusing entry to those members of the public who had attended the hearing on 16 January 2004.

The ICJ is also very worried that the defendants continue to be detained in circumstances wherein the re-trial is proceeding at a rate of only one day per month, thus violating the Court’s obligation to proceed with expedition where bail is refused. The ICJ is therefore of the opinion that the defendants’ rights to liberty and security have also been violated.

Re-trial of Leyla Zana and three other former Kurdish parliamentarians (full text, PDF)

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