Alert: Urgent call to lift Covid-19 related restrictions in places of detention
Turkey
22.03.22
Urgent Interventions

Turkey: Saturday Mothers group at court for fourth hearing

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

TUR 001 / 0221 / OBS 024.1
Judicial harassment /
Restrictions of freedom of assembly
Turkey
March 22, 2022

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 intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the ongoing judicial harassment against 46 participants in the Saturday Mothers/People’s (Cumartesi Anneleri/İnsanları) peaceful vigils. The Saturday Mothers/People is a group of human rights defenders who, every Saturday at noon for a half an hour, gather in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square holding photographs of their loved ones who have been victims of enforced disappearances or political murders during the 1980s and 1990s. The Saturday Mothers/People are human rights defenders who seek justice for their relatives, demand disclosure of their fates and whereabouts, and condemn the impunity of these crimes.

On March 23, 2022, 46 participants of the Saturday Mothers/People’s will appear before the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance for their fourth hearing. They are facing the charge of “unarmed participation in an unauthorised assembly and refusal to disperse despite warnings” (Art. 32 of the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations), in connection with their participation in the Saturday Mothers/People’s 700th gathering held on August 25, 2018 despite the ban imposed by the Beyoğlu District Governorate. If convicted, they could face up to three years of imprisonment.

The first and second hearings in their case took place on March 25 and July 12, 2021, respectively. The third hearing, held on November 24, 2021, started two hours and 15 minutes late. The judge refused to offer an explanation for the delay, per the defense lawyers requests, stipulating that there was no provision that obliged a judge to provide an explanation for delaying a hearing according to the Criminal Procedure Code of Turkey. The defense cited numerous violations of the defendants’ right to due process, including the unruled recusal motion submitted at the previous hearing and the judge’s biased attitude. The court rejected all requests, including the request for the judge’s recusal.

The Observatory recalls that on November 18, 2020, the Istanbul Criminal Court of First Instance charged the 46 peaceful protestors, including relatives of those who were forcibly disappeared as well as members and executives of the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği – İHD), with “unarmed participation in an unauthorised assembly and refusal to disperse despite warnings”. Through its decision to launch a criminal prosecution, the Court accepted the indictment presented by the Terrorist Offences Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which argued that the Saturday Mothers/People’s 700th vigil had been banned by the authorities to “guarantee national security, public order, public morality, public health and to prevent the commission of crimes.”

The Observatory further recalls that on August 25, 2018, the police dispersed the 700th vigil by force, using tear gas and rubber bullets, and 46 protestors were arrested and subsequently released. On August 27, 2018, the Ministry of Interior Affairs “justified” the use of force by the police on the ground that the Saturday Mothers/People were “being exploited by terrorist organisations” and that those organisations were “using the concept of motherhood to create victimisation, masking terrorism and polarising society”.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the ongoing judicial harassment of the 46 participants in the Saturday Mothers/People’s peaceful protest and condemns the systematic restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly in Turkey. The Observatory recalls that no prior permission or approval is required to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly guaranteed under Article 34 of the Constitution of Turkey.

The Observatory urges the authorities in Turkey to immediately and unconditionally put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the 46 participants in the Saturday Mothers/People’s vigils, and calls for a thorough, prompt, transparent and impartial investigation into the allegations of unlawful use of force by the police. The Observatory further urges the authorities in Turkey to guarantee the above-mentioned 46 individuals their rights to due process and fair trial during the judicial proceedings in their case.

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 the participants in the Saturday Mothers/People’s vigils and of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Immediately drop the charges and put an end to all forms of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the participants in the Saturday Mothers/People’s vigils and all human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee the participants in the Saturday Mothers/People’s vigils their rights to due process and fair trial during the judicial proceedings in their case;

iv. Ensure an enabling legal, institutional and administrative environment that effectively guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and in Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

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

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Geneva-Paris, March 22, 2022

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.

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