The ICJ called today on the Turkish authorities to immediately release human rights defender and lawyer Öztürk Türkdoğan, who was arrested this morning after an unlawful search of his home. The charges against him, if any, are unkown and he is currently being held without access to his lawyer.
Öztürk Türkdoğan is the chair of the Human Rights Association and a lawyer and member of the Ankara Bar Association.
“The arrest and search of Öztürk Türkdoğan’s continues a systematic pattern of misuse of the criminal law to harass and persecute human rights defenders and lawyers in Turkey in recent years,” said Roisin Pillay, ICJ’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director. “Öztürk Türkdoğan must be released immediately. If he remains in detention then he must be ensured immediate and confidential access to a lawyer, and be informed of the nature of any charges against him and brought promptly before a court.”
The arrest occurred during a search of Öztürk Türkdoğan’s home without the presence of a lawyer, which is in direct contravention of Turkish criminal procedural law.
While no information has been made available on the charges against Öztürk Türkdoğan, he is currently being detained without access to a lawyer for 24 hours, which indicates that the charges are likely related to terrorism or to offences against the State. These offences, contrary to obligations under international human rights law, are vaguely and broadly defined and have been long used and abused by prosecutors in Turkey to suppress human rights defenders, lawyers and political opponents.
Under international human rights law, anyone arrested has a right to prompt and confidential access to a lawyer, and to information on the charges against them. Arrests and searches of homes must not be arbitrary and must be carried out in compliance with international standards and national laws and procedures.
“Hundreds of lawyers, judges and prosecutors have been improperly arrested, harassed and detained in the past few years by Turkish authorities ” said Roisin Pillay. “Using the criminal justice system in this way is contrary to the most fundamental principles of the rule of law.”
Systematic violations of human rights in investigation and prosecution of counter-terrorism offences in Turkey have also been documented by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, theWorking Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
The ICJ has extensively documented these violations:
- ICJ and IHOP Joint Statement on Access to Justice in Turkey: https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/ICJIHOP-JointStatement-2020-EN.pdf
- Press Statements on undue detention and prosecutions of lawyers here and here (add lings https://www.icj.org/turkey-drop-criminal-charges-against-chair-and-board-members-of-istanbul-bar/ https://www.icj.org/turkey-end-detention-of-lawyers-held-for-representing-clients-says-icj/ https://www.icj.org/turkey-end-detention-of-lawyers-held-for-representing-clients-says-icj/ https://www.icj.org/icj-mourns-the-death-of-human-rights-lawyer-ebru-timtik/
- ICJ and HRW Statement on reform of the legal profession: https://www.icj.org/turkey-plan-to-divide-undermine-legal-profession/
- ICJ UPR Submission: https://www.icj.org/turkey-icj-submission-to-the-un-universal-periodic-review-upr/
- ICJ Report, Justice Suspended: https://www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Turkey-Access-to-justice-Publications-Reports-2018-ENG.pdf