Turkey: Arbitrary detention of 20 university academics and researchers, among whom Mr. M.D. Ümit Biçer

Urgent Appeal
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TUR 001 / 0116 / OBS 010
Arbitrary detention / Release
Judicial harassment
January 19, 2016

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) about the arbitrary detention of 20 university academics and researchers [1] across the country, among whom Mr. M.D. Ümit Biçer, HRFT Board Member and professor at the Kocaeli University.

According to the information received, on January 15, 2016 an anti-terrorism police operation targeting more than 1.000 academics in Turkey who had signed a statement denouncing state violence on Kurdish provinces was launched, leading to the detention of 20 of them. The academics are being investigated under laws prohibiting “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and the ”denigration of the Turkish Nation”. Later on the same date, all academics were released but may face the above-mentioned charges.

On January 11, 2016, more than 1,400 academics in Turkey and abroad, including Mr. M.D. Ümit, published a statement led by Academics for Peace entitled “We will not be a Party to This Crime”. The statement expresses concern that the ongoing curfews, which have been declared in several cities across South East Turkey, are exposing their inhabitants to severe human rights violations, and asks that they are immediately lifted and that solutions for a permanent peace process be established. Furthermore, it calls the State of Turkey to put an end to the violence and prepare the conditions for the negotiations. However, soon after its publication, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan heavily criticised the academics and compared them to terrorists. In a public speech made on January 15, 2016, President Erdoğan referred to the academics as “the darkest of dark” and accused them of having committed “the same crime as those who carry out massacres”. Earlier last week, the President called the academics the “fifth column” for terrorists. In addition, several academics have also reportedly received threats via social media and by telephone, including by nationalist mafia boss Sedat Peker, who has publicly threatened the group saying: “we will bathe in your blood”.

The arrest of the academics takes place against the backdrop of the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey. The authorities have launched a wide-range anti-terrorism operation, started in late July 2015 under the pretext of countering terrorism. In this context, at least 58 curfews have been imposed in several cities in South East Turkey (Cizre, Sirnak, Sur, Mardin, Diyarbakir, Hakkâri, Muş, Elazığ and Batman), leading to restrictions in access to basic services for approximately 1,377,000 people living in these districts and to the death between August 16, 2015 and January 9, 2016, of at least 162 civilians (including 29 women, 32 children, 24 people aged over 60) [2].

The operation turned into a massive crackdown against peaceful civil society actors depicted as “terrorist networks”. This campaign has been targeting dozens of peaceful activists who have been involved in the monitoring of human rights violations resulting from anti-terrorism operations and advocating for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. These peaceful activists include human rights defenders, particularly HRFT and İHD members, lawyers, political party representatives and journalists [3].

The Observatory calls upon the Turkish authorities to put an end to the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, including academic figures, and to drop all charges against them, since they are arbitrary as they only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Turkey, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Turkey, including academics;

ii. Drop all charges against all academics and release immediately and unconditionally all human rights defenders currently in detention, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at curtailing their their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the 20 academics and all human rights defenders in Turkey;

iv. Put an end to the crackdown on civil society under the pretext of countering terrorism and recognise the legitimate role of human rights defenders in line with Turkey’s international commitments;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

- its Article 6(a-b-c), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, (a) to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, (b) as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms, (c) to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”;

- its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.


· President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi 06560 Beştepe-Ankara, Tel: (+90 312) 525 55 55, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31, E-mail: contact@tccb.gov.tr
· Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, Vekaletler Caddesi Başbakanlık Merkez Bina, 06573 Kızılay / Ankara ; Tel: (0312) 422 10 00 ; Fax: +90 (312) 403 62 82 ; Email: ozelkalem@basbakanlik.gov.tr
· Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu, No: 8 Balgat / Ankara - Turkey 06100; Tel : +90 (312) 292 10 00
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Kenan Ipek, 06659 Kizilay, Ankara; Tel: +90 (312) 417 77 70; Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70; E-mail: info@adalet.gov.tr
· Minister of Interior, Mr. Efkan Ala, Bakanlıklar Ankara; Tel: +90 (312) 422 40 00;Fax: 90 312 418 1795;Email: ozelkalem@icisleri.gov.tr
· Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
· Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28B 1211 Geneva 19, Tel: +41 22 918 50 80; Fax: +41 22 734 08 59; Email: mission.turkey@ties.itu.int

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Turkey in your respective country.

Paris-Geneva, January 19, 2016

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

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of human rights defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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