TURKEY: Human rights defender Osman Işçi must be immediately released

Urgent Appeal

Copenhagen, Paris, Geneva, 25 June 2012 : The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and 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), express their deepest concern regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Osman Işçi, as well as the issuing of arrest warrants against 72 trade unionists.

According to the information received, Mr. Osman Işçi, member of the Human Rights Association (İHD), and EMHRN Executive Committee member, was arrested at his home in the Ankara Province in the morning of 25 June 2012 by the anti-terrorist police forces, and brought to the Security Directorate in Ankara. Police officers said his arrest was part of vast anti-terrorist operations intended to dismantle an alleged terrorist network - the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) - an organisation said by the authorities to be the “urban branch” of the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). These operations that started in 2009 have in fact been targeting mostly peaceful Kurdish and pro-Kurdish activists.

It is reported that 55 trade unionists have also been detained, of which 3 were released by the police for health reasons. 53, including Mr. Işçi, currently remain in custody and other 2 people are being sought by the police for questioning. Police teams have been raiding the homes of 71 members of trade unions, as well as the headquarters of KESK, the Egitim-Sen (Education and Science Worker’s Union), SES (The Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services), BTS (United Trade Union of Transport Employees) and other branches of these trade unions in Ankara, Diyarbakır, İstanbul, Ağrı, Bitlis, Siirt, Adana, Eskişehir Provinces.

Mr. Işçi is a well-known human rights activist and has focused in particular on minority rights and freedom of association and expression. He is also a member of a trade union affiliated to the KESK.

Mr. Işçi and the other activists are expected to be presented before public prosecution on 27 or 28 June. The prosecutor will then decide to release them or to keep them in detention, pending the end of the investigation.

Our organisations denounce the continuing policy of arbitrary detention and judicial harassment targeting human rights defenders in Turkey, particularly İHD members, members of trade unions, lawyers and journalists, who have been involved in advocating for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue.

We recall that 12 İHD members have long been suffering judicial harassment and are currently in pre-trial detention: Messrs. Muharrem Erbey and Arslan Özdemir, Diyarbakır Branch Executives; Messrs. Şerif Süren and Orhan Çiçek, Aydın Branch Executives; Ms. Zana Aksu, Messrs. Reşit Teymur and Muhsin Beydoğan, Siirt Branch Executives; Mr. Abdulkadir Çurğatay and Ms. Veysi Parıltı, Mardin Branch Executives; Doğubeyazıt Representative Şaziye Önder, Muş former Branch Chairperson Mensur Işık and Malatya Executive Hikmet Kapancı.

Our organisations urge the authorities to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Osman Işçi, as well as all other human rights defenders detained;
ii. Release Mr. Osman Işçi, as well as all other human rights defenders, immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Osman Işçi, as well as against all other members of İHD and trade unionists and, more generally, all human rights defenders in Turkey;
iv. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as 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”;
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Turkey.

EMHRN: Hayet Zeghiche: +32 2 503 06 86
FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: + 41 22 809 49 39

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