Turkey: Acquittal of Mr. Osman Isçi and ongoing harassment of members of Academics for Peace

15/11/2019
Urgent Appeal

TUR 004 / 1119 / OBS 093
Judicial harassment / Acquittals
Turkey
November 15, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği - İHD) about the acquittal of Mr. Osman Isçi, Secretary General of İHD, and the ongoing harassment of the members of Academics for Peace, a group of academics who signed the declaration published in January 2016 calling for an end to State violence in the south-east of Turkey.

According to the information, on October 30, 2019, Ankara 21st Heavy Penal Court acquitted Mr. Osman Isçi of the charges of “propagandising for a terrorist organisation” (Article No. 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713) during his final hearing. He had been judicially harassed for having signed the declaration entitled "We will not be a party to this crime" released by Academics for Peace (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that over 806 academics stood trial since December 5, 2017 for signing the declaration and that 204 of them were sentenced to prison sentences at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal. On July 26, 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that the criminalisation of the Academics for Peace over “propagandising for a terrorist organisation” charges violated their right to freedom of expression and advised for retrial. To date, 484 academics have been acquitted since the Constitutional Court’s decision. However, on October 31, 2019 Istanbul 37th Heavy Criminal Court turned down the retrial request of an academic, who had previously received a deferred prison sentence, on the grounds that on technical terms deferred prison sentence does not constitute a verdict, and an official verdict is required for a retrial. On November 1, 2019, 486 academics have been acquitted, while 336 still await court ruling.

On the other hand, members of Academics for Peace have been facing other types of harassment beyond the judicial level. During the state of emergency period, 406 academics were dismissed from their positions in universities by emergency decrees. Employment contracts of 89 academics were terminated or not renewed; 72 were forced to resign, and 27 were forced to be retired. The Law no. 7145, entered into force on July 25, 2018 following the end of the emergency rule, prevents dismissed academics from being reinstated to their former positions even if the decision of dismissal is revoked. Furthermore, many academics are still unable to travel outside Turkey for any reason as their passports were cancelled. It remains unclear if their passports will be returned following the legislative amendments due to enter into force in January 2020.

The Observatory welcomes the acquittal of Mr. Osman Isçi and other Academics for Peace but recalls that they should never have been criminalised in the first place, as the legal proceedings against them seem to be only aimed at punishing them for the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression. The Observatory calls on the Turkish authorities to respect under all circumstances the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Academics for Peace, including Mr. Osman Isçi, and all human rights defenders in Turkey.

Background information:

On January 10, 2016, 1,128 academics published a declaration entitled "We will not be party to this crime" on behalf of the Academics for Peace initiative. After a few months, the number of academics who signed the declaration reached 2,212. Lawsuits were filed against many of those academics over charges of "propagandising for a terrorist organisation" (Article No. 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713).

As of the publication of this Urgent Appeal, out of the 806 academics who stood trial since December 5, 2017, all 204, whose cases were concluded, received prison sentences. 146 of them were sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison; 8 academics to 1 year and 6 months in prison; 18 academics to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison; 17 academics to 2 years and 3 months in prison; 7 academics to 2 years and 6 months in prison; 5 academics to 2 years and 1 month in prison; and one academic to 3 years in prison. On February 25, 2019, the 3rd Penal Chamber of Istanbul Regional Court of Justice notably upheld Prof. Dr. Füsun Üstel’s sentence of 1 year and 3 months’ imprisonment. The latter was imprisoned on May 8, 2019 to serve her sentence, and was released on July 22, 2019 from the Eskişehir Women’s Closed Prison after spending over two months in detention.

On July 26, 2019, after examining the individual applications of 9 Academics for Peace sentenced to prison, the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court ruled that the penalisation of Academics for Peace over "propagandising for a terrorist organisation" violated their freedom of expression. The Constitutional Court decided that a copy of this ruling should be sent to all local courts for retrial in order to eliminate the right’s violation. Additionally, the Court ruled to pay each applicant 9,150 TRY (around 1,435 Euros) in compensation.

The first verdict of acquittal for an Academic for Peace in accordance with the Constitutional Court ruling was given by the İstanbul 30 th Heavy Penal Court on September 6, 2019. Since then, 27 courts have given verdicts of acquittal for the members of Academics for Peace, and 484 academics have been acquitted.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, againstAcademics for Peace, including Mr. Osman Isçi,and all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Respect under any circumstances the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Article 19 of ICCPR;

iii. Ensure respect for the provisions of Turkish and International legislation on employment and non-discrimination rights for the employment of the academics after acquittal and refrain from their discriminatory treatment;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Constitution of the Turkish Republic, international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Addresses:

President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31
Minister of Justice, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül, E-mail: ozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu, Fax: +90 (312) 425 61 30
H.E. Mr. Kaymakci Faruk, Ambassador, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, E-mail: tr-delegation.eu@mfa.gov.tr; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
H.E. Mr. Sadık Arslan, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr; Fax: +41 22 734 08 59

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 15, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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