Turkey: Break-in of Ms. Eren Keskin’s apartement

22/06/2020
Urgent Appeal
en tr

New information
TUR 001 / 0120 / OBS 002.1
Break-in / Threats /
Intimidation
Turkey
June 22, 2020

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

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the break-in of the apartment of Ms. Eren Keskin, human rights lawyer [1] and co-president of the Human Rights Association (İHD). Ms. Eren Keskin is the winner of multiple international awards for her peace and human rights work, including the 2018 Helsinki Civil Society Award [2], and was the 2018 finalist of Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders [3].

According to the information received, on June 16, 2020 unknown people broke into the apartment of Ms. Eren Keskin, while nobody was at home. Nothing was stolen from the apartment. However, the perpetrators took Ms. Eren Keskin’s belongings from drawers and thrown them around. Moreover, her jewellery was demonstratively left on the main table in the room. The incident was reported to the local police and is currently being investigated.

The Observatory recalls that on June 12, 2020, four days before the attack, Ms. Eren Keskin was summoned by the Prosecutor of Istanbul, on allegations of “terrorist propaganda” in connection to the messages she posted in 2015 on social media concerning the curfew in the South-East of Turkey and the Kurdish issue. The Observatory fears that the above-mentioned attack constitutes an act of threat and intimidation targeting Ms. Eren Keskin for her human rights activities.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the threats against Ms. Eren Keskin and calls on the Turkish authorities to conduct a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned acts and to put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her as well as against all human rights defenders in Turkey. Finally, the Observatory calls upon the Turkish authorities to ensure an enabling environment by avoiding public discourse aimed at stigmatising journalist, human rights defenders and political activists.

Background information:

From 2013 to 2016, Ms. Eren Keskin held the title of editor-in-chief for Özgür Gündem (‘Free Agenda’) and also joined the “co-editor-in-chief” campaign, which was organised between May and August 2016, to support the imprisoned editorial staff of the newspaper. Özgür Gündem newspaper was shut down by the Emergency Decree no. 675 on October 29, 2016 over “terrorist propaganda” allegations.

In the aftermath of the solidarity campaign, criminal investigations were launched against 49 people, who held the title of co-editor-in-chief for Özgür Gündem, and criminal cases were launched against 38 of them. Many columnists of the newspaper also face criminal cases for their articles published in the newspaper. A total of 143 cases, some of which were later combined, have been lodged against Ms. Eren Keskin in relation to her editorship in the newspaper.

In addition, the case known as the Özgür Gündem main trial started in December 2016, in which five advisory board members, as well as four editors-in-chief of the newspaper, have been facing charges for “disrupting the unity of the state”, “incitement to commit crime”, “membership to a terrorist organisation”, “terrorist propaganda” and “publishing and spreading statements of terrorist organisations” in relation to articles published in Özgür Gündem. On October 10, 2018the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court lifted Ms. Eren Keskin’s international travel ban. However, she still has a travel ban issued against her in other cases and investigations.

On January 13, 2020, the 15th hearing of the main trial in Özgür Gündem newspaper case was held before the Istanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court. The prosecutor asked Ms. Eren Keskin and other defendants to be convicted of "membership to a terrorist organisation" (Article 324/2 of the Criminal Code and Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713). The prosecutor alleged that Ms. Eren Keskin promoted the objectives of the terrorist organisation through her articles published in the newspaper and other articles published during her chief editorship. Three defendants were acquitted in that case, while Ms. Eren Keskin’s case was separated along with other defendants.

To date, Ms. Keskin was sentenced to a total of 17.5 years in prison and over 400,000 TL (around 60,000 Euros) in fines. Out of the files imposing fines on Ms. Keskin, judicial remedies were exhausted for the fines amounting to more than 300,000 TL (around 45,000 Euros) - and Ms. Keskin already started to pay that amount thanks to national and international solidarity - while the prison sentences and the remainder of the fines are still pending before the Court of Appeals and the Court of Cassation.

In addition, Eren Keskin’s ongoing work as a human rights lawyer has also been challenged: the legal team of the Office of the President of Turkey filed an application to the Istanbul Bar Association in August 2018 requesting the Bar to launch a disciplinary investigation against Ms. Keskin, which may result in disbarment. The investigation is still pending.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Eren Keskin, as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Carry out an impartial, transparent, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned events in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before and independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by law, and ensure the report on the outcome of the investigation is made public;

iv. Put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Eren Keskin and all human rights defenders in Turkey and ensure that they are able to carry out their human rights activities without hindrance;

vi. 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;

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

Addresses:

• President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: +90 (312) 525 58 31. Email: contact@tccb.gov.tr
• Minister of Justice, Abdülhamit Gül. Email: info@adalet.gov.tr. Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70
• Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu. Email: diab@icisleri.gov.tr; sti@icisleri.gov.tr
• Ambassador Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50. Email: info@turkdeleg.org; tr-delegation.eu@mfa.gov.tr
• Ambassador Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr

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

***
Geneva-Paris, June 22, 2020

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 the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH 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 OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] For almost thirty years, she has contributed to the protection of minority rights, countered violence against women, and campaigned to challenge militarism and end torture. She is the founder of a legal office providing pro bono services for transgender persons and women who were raped or sexually abused by the national security forces.
[2] See https://www.nhc.nl/helsinki-civil-society-award-2018-goes-to-eren-keskin/
[3] See FIDH Press Release published on May 13, 2019: https://www.fidh.org/en/region/europe-central-asia/turkey/turkey-fidh-supports-the-human-rights-activist-eren-keskin

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