The ICJ expressed today its deep concern at the arrest of some 26 lawyers and the investigation of around 100, including lawyers active in the defence of human rights, in South East Turkey.
The arrests and investigations are on charges of “establishing organizations in favour of an illegal organisation”, an offence often used to arrest human rights defenders in Turkey.
Around 26 lawyers were arrested this morning, 20 November, at around 5 a.m. and taken to the Anti-Terror Branch of the Police in Diyarbakır in South East Turkey as part of an investigation against the Democratic Society Congress. The ICJ understands that around 100 lawyers are concerned by this investigation that also concerns the Lawyers Association for Freedom (ÖHD).
“We are concerned that these lawyers have been arrested under vague charges that are often used in Turkey to target human rights defenders ,” said Roisin Pillay, Director of the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme,
“Unless law enforcement officers and prosecutors promptly substantiate such charges with adequate evidence, as well as demonstrating valid grounds for their detention, the lawyers must be released immediately.”
The ICJ will follow the case closely to ascertain whether international law and standards are respected in any action against the lawyers concerned.
“Lawyers are often subject to bogus charges in Turkey to curb their work, including in defence of human rights, and the exercise of their freedom of expression,” added Roisin Pillay.
The ICJ stressed that lawyers should never be subject to arrest for the legitimate exercise or defence of human rights or for the exercise of their professional functions. In the event that any of the lawyers arrested on 20 November are subject to charges for cognizable crimes consistent with Turkish and international law, they must be brought promptly before a court to further consider whether specific grounds exist to justify their continued detention. If charged, they must be ensured the right of fair trial by an independent and impartial court.
It is understood from documents shared by unofficial sources that lawyers’ houses in Diyarbakır have been raided as a part of an ongoing investigation conducted against the Democratic Society Congress (“DSC”). DSC was established in 2007 and continued its work at the premises of Diyarbakır municipality in between 2011-2014. Its members included deputies, mayors, and councillors. The Speaker of the Parliament of the time, officially invited the DSC to the meetings of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission in 2012. However, following the state of emergency declared in July 2016 a criminal investigation against the DSC was initiated. In 2018, the building of the DSC was raided under this investigation and information about the Congress was gathered during that operation. It is understood that the arrests were made based on information obtained in that search. In the search warrant issued by the public prosecutor today, security forces were asked to look for “organisational documents” such as books, journals, articles, newspapers etc. as evidence. From this warrant, it is clear that the operation conducted against lawyers are not related to acts of violence.
The detained lawyers and human rights defenders are: Lawyers Association for Freedom co-chair Av. Bünyamin Şeker, İHD Adıyaman branch head av. Bülent Temel, ÖHD and İHD member lawyers Abdulkadir Güleç, Eshat Aktaç, Serdar Talay, İmran Gökdere, Diyar Çetedir, Serdar Özer, Feride Laçin, Gamze Yalçın, Gevriye Atlı, Resul Tamur, Cemile Turhallı Balsak, Ahmet Kalpak, Devrim Barış Baran, Neşet Girasun, Sedat Aydın, Mahsum Batı, Şivan Cemil Özen and Haknas Sadak, former TTB Central Council Member and still Honorary Board member Dr. Şehmus Gökalp, HRFT Diyarbakır Representation Office employee, Social Service Expert Serkan Delidere, MED Prisoner and Convict Families Association of Legal and Solidarity Associations Federation (TUHAD-FED) executive Diyar Dilek Özer and federation member Leyla Ayaz, DİVES member Süleyman Okur, Bağlar Municipality Council member Panayır Çelik,
Roisin Pillay, e: roisin.pillay(a)icj.org
Massimo Frigo, e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org