Turkey: arrests of human rights defenders are alarming setback to the rule of law

The Turkish government should immediately release 11 people, including eight Turkish human rights defenders, who were detained yesterday in Istanbul, said the ICJ today.

The human rights defenders were arrested on unknown charges while attending a training in Istanbul on digital security and information management; also reported arrested were two trainers (reportedly a German and a Swedish national) and the owner of the training venue.

Amnesty International has reported that they were denied access to family members and lawyers, contrary to existing regulations.

“These arrests are an alarming setback to efforts to restore the rule of law in Turkey,” said ICJ Secretary General Sam Zarifi.

“Arrest and harassment of human rights defenders violates Turkey’s international legal obligations. Turkish authorities should be protecting human rights and supporting the important work of human rights defenders, but instead we have witnessed a continuing pattern of arrests on human rights defenders in the country,” he added.

On 6 June, Taner Kiliç, the President of Amnesty International Turkey was arrested.

He is currently detained on remand in what several international observers have qualified as baseless charges.

Turkey is currently under a State of Emergency enacted after the attempted coup d’etat of 15 July 2016.

While recognizing the serious attack suffered by Turkish institutions, the ICJ has repeatedly called for an end to this year-long state of emergency under which sweeping measures have been enacted that continue to erode human rights, including rights of fair trial, the right to liberty, and freedoms of expression and association.

“It is time to turn the page of the emergency and return to the rule of law,” said Sam Zarifi. “The work of human rights defenders, judges and lawyers is essential to a democratic society that upholds human rights.”


The human rights defenders arrested are Idil Eser (current Director of Amnesty International Turkey, photo), İlknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Nalan Erkem (Citizens Assembly), Nejat Taştan (Equal Rights Watch Association) , Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Şeyhmuz Özbekli, and Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association).


Olivier van Bogaert, ICJ Director of Media & Communications, t: +41 22 979 3808 ; e: olivier.vanbogaert(a)icj.org

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