The ICJ and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urge the Turkish Council of Judges and Prosecutors (CJP) to stop their investigation into the three judges of the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court who, on 18 February 2020, acquitted the defendants in the Gezi Park trial due to a lack of evidence.
According to a statement from 30 Turkish bar associations, the sole reason for the investigation was the acquittal in the Gezi Park trial. The Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the body of self-governance of the judiciary, has the power to launch and take disciplinary action against judges, including disciplinary proceedings leading to removal from office.
“The launch of such an investigation is a further sign of the grave decline of the rule of law in Turkey”, said Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser for the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme “The disciplinary proceedings against these judges appear to be a direct interference in their decision-making power and will have a chilling effect on the independence of all members of the judiciary.”
“The role of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors should be to protect the independence of the judiciary – not to be an instrument of control and pressure against individual judges” said Massimo Frigo.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: “The IBAHRI and the ICJ jointly welcomed the acquittal of Osman Kavala and the other 15 defendants. Now, we condemn the re-arrest of Mr Kavala, continue to stand with the defendants, and call for Mr Kavala’s immediate release. We implore the Turkish Council of Judges and Prosecutors to reconsider the hugely damaging impact their inspection of the judges will have on the principles of judicial independence and the rights of lawyers, and to cease all action in this respect.”
The launch of this investigation occurred immediately after the acquittals in the Gezi trial, spurred by the vehement public protests by President Erdogan against the verdict.
30 Turkish Bar Associations have issued a statement calling for the resignation of the members of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors and considered this investigation as a violation of the principle of judicial independence under the Turkish Constitution.
The defendants in the Gezi trial – with the exception of those not present in Turkey who will be tried separately – were acquitted on 18 February for lack of evidence. The ICJ and IBAHRI welcomed the acquittal after having observed all hearings of the trial. The very evening of the verdict, one of the defendants, Osman Kavala, was re-arrested on suspicion of “attempting to disrupt the constitutional order” connected to the failed coup attempt of 2016.
Osman Kavala has been in detention since 18 October 2017 pending trial on charges connected to the Gezi Park protests. The Gezi Park protests began in May 2013 as an effort by a group of environmentalists to save a park in central Istanbul from being rezoned, but soon grew into nationwide demonstrations. Police quelled the protest in Taksim Square with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
Massimo Frigo, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser – e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org – t: +41229793805