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13 November 2017

Turkey: UN experts call for dropping of terror charges against leading human rights defenders

GENEVA (13 November 2017) - A group of United Nations experts* has condemned the use of terrorism charges against human rights defenders and people legitimately expressing dissent in Turkey.

The experts highlighted a number of cases of concern, including the detention of Amnesty Turkey chair Taner Kiliç, the arrest of 10 human rights defenders in July on Buyukada Island, the detention of 14 lawyers from the People’s Law Office, and the recent arrest and charging of leading businessman and civil society activist Osman Kavala.

“We call for the immediate release of all the human rights defenders and lawyers concerned in these cases, and we appeal to the Turkish authorities to drop the charges of terrorism against them,” the experts said.

“These cases demonstrate a worrying pattern of silencing people whose work legitimately calls into question the views and policies of the Government."

“Most of these accusations of terrorism are based solely on actions such as downloading data protection software, publishing opinions disagreeing with the Government’s anti-terrorism policies, organizing demonstrations, or providing legal representation for other activists.”

The experts said they were concerned that most of the activists remained in detention in conditions that may amount to inhumane or degrading treatment, welcoming the news that some had been granted bail on 25 October 2017.

“Ever since the coup attempt in July 2016 we have witnessed with alarm the arrest, detention and prosecution of people voicing criticism of the Turkish Government and working to protect human rights,” said the experts.

“The people carrying out these activities are lawfully exercising their civil and political rights, and the Turkish authorities are failing to present evidence that such expression poses a risk to national security amounting to terrorism.”

The experts had previously voiced concerns on the issue of the detention of several human rights defenders on 14 July 2017.

*The UN experts: Ms. Annalisa Ciampi, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rappourteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.