Turkey: Release and ongoing judicial harassment of four academics and researchers

27/04/2016
Urgent Appeal

New information
TUR 001 / 0116 / OBS 010.2
Release /
Judicial harassment
Turkey
April 27, 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), 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 release and ongoing judicial harassment of four academics and researchers, Ms. Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Ms. Meral Camcı, Mr. Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr. Muzaffer Kaya.

According to the information received, on April 22, 2016, Ms. Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Ms. Meral Camcı, Mr. Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr. Muzaffer Kaya appeared before the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penal Court to face charges of “terrorist propaganda” (Article 7/2 of Anti-Terrorism Law) after denouncing human rights violations in a press statement and a petition.

The prosecutor announced that he intended to suspend the investigation which he had initiated based on Article 7/2 and to launch a new investigation for breach of Article 301 of the Penal Code (“insulting Turkishness”) [1]. Then the court decided to release the four on bail, and adjourned the hearing to September 27, 2016, without confirming nor reversing the Prosecutor’s decision.

The Observatory welcomes the release of the four afore-mentioned academics, and calls upon the Turkish authorities to put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them as well as against all human rights defenders in Turkey.

Until all charges are dropped against Ms. Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Ms. Meral Camcı, Mr. Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr. Muzaffer Kaya, the Observatory further urges the Turkish authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against them are carried out in full compliance with their right to a fair trial, as protected under international law.

Background information:

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 arrest of 20 of them [2], among whom Mr. M.D. Ümit Biçer, Board Member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) and professor at the Kocaeli University, under laws prohibiting “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and the ”denigration of the Turkish Nation”. Later on the same date, all academics were released. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, the investigation was ongoing.

On January 11, 2016, more than 1,400 academics in Turkey and abroad had published a statement led by Academics for Peace entitled “We will not be a Party to This Crime”. The statement expressed 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 asked that they are immediately lifted and that solutions for a permanent peace process be established. Furthermore, it called the State of Turkey to put an end to violence and prepare the conditions for peace 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, he referred to the academics as “the darkest of dark” and accused them of having committed “the same crime as those who carry out massacres”. The President also called the academics the “fifth column” for terrorists. Several academics are also said to have received threats via social media and by telephone, including from nationalist mafia boss Sedat Peker, who has publicly threatened the group saying: “we will bathe in your blood”.

The arrests of the academics have taken 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 March 18, 2016 of at least 310 civilians (including 62 women, 72 children, 29 people aged over 60) [3].

The operation turned into a massive crackdown against peaceful civil society actors depicted as part of “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 members of HRFT and the Human Rights Association(İHD) members, lawyers, political party representatives, academics and journalists [4].

Ms. Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Mr. Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr. Muzaffer Kaya were arrested on March 15, 2016 and were detained in high security closed prisons in İstanbul, Bakırköy Prison for Women and Silivri Prison for Men, respectively. Ms. Meral Camcı was arrested upon her return to Turkey on March 31, 2016 and was detained in Bakırköy Prison for Women.

The indictment against them referred to a press statement which they read out on March 10, 2016 on behalf of the Academics for Peace, as well as to “We will not be a Party to This Crime” statement.

Actions requested:

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

i. Drop all charges against all signatory academics, particularly Ms. Meral Camcı, Ms. Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Mr. Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr. Muzaffer Kaya and, in the meantime, ensure that any judicial proceedings against them is carried out in full compliance with the defendants’ right to a fair trial, as protected under international law;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Turkey, including the above-mentioned academics;

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

iv. Put an end to the ongoing 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 obligations;

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.

Addresses:

· President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31, E-mail: contact@tccb.gov.tr
· Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, Fax:+90 (312) 403 62 82 ; Email: ozelkalem@basbakanlik.gov.tr
· Minister of Justice of Turkey Mr. Kenan Ipek, Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70; E-mail: info@adalet.gov.tr
· Minister of Interior of Turkey Mr. Efkan Ala,Fax: 90 312 418 1795;Email: ozelkalem@icisleri.gov.tr
· Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
· Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, 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.

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