Category: General

Human rights defenders in Turkey should be released immediately!

In Hamburg we can currently witness a de-facto state of emergency. Peaceful protests are being hampered or even thwarted by a police that uses excessive force and neglect both the right to peacefully assemble and the separation of the executive and judicial branches. Regardless – or maybe precisely for that reason – the police also failed to protect the citizens from the violence from those who seek nothing but.

In Turkey we could witness for some time now what happens if the exception becomes the rule.

When we participated in the meeting of NGOs seeking to protect the freedom of assembly, which was organized by OSCE/ODIHR, we had the privilege of encountering a delegate from the Turkey-based organization “Eşit Haklar İçin İzleme Derneği“.

It is easy to lament the downfall of democracy and the rise of an autocracy in Turkey. But our dear colleagues in Turkey calmly and rationally tried to analyze and understand state actions, and to advocate that the rule of law must apply to all citizens in the same way and that state actions always must be based on laws and international norms.

Unfortunately, the voices of reason are on the defensive in far too many parts of the world and so we learned that a member of our sister organization has been detained, together with seven other human rights defenders.

We have translated their press release about this incident into German and shall reprint it here as a sign of our solidarity:

Human rights defenders in Turkey should be released immediately!

On the morning of July 5th, 8 human rights defenders and 2 experts were detained at a seminar organized for the technical capacity building of human rights defenders during states of emergency. The seminar was being held in the Buyukada Island in Istanbul when plain clothed police officers conducted a raid and detained all participants, confiscating all their belongings. The human rights defenders Nalan Erkem (Citizens Assembly), İlknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens Assembly), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Veli Acu (Helsinki Citizens Assembly), Şeyhmuz Özbekli (Rights Initiative), Nejat Taştan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights) and experts Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner were held under custody for over 24 hours with a restriction order on the communication of their whereabouts to their family, colleagues and attorneys. Their detention was found out accidentally at 9.14 PM of the same day, 12 hours after the detention took place.

The fact that families of the detained human rights defenders were not informed about their detention, that no information was made available due to the order of restriction by the prosecutor, and the conditions of their detention went beyond standard state of emergency rules and regulations, and may amount to incommunicado detention. Additionally, the defenders were detained at 9.30 AM, whereas the detention and 24-hour restriction order were finalized at 2.30 PM, leading to an unlawfully extended detainment period.

The families and attorneys of the human rights defenders were informed of their whereabouts the next day (July 6th), after they had been separated into groups of two and dispersed to police stations across İstanbul. Their period of detention was extended to 7 days, the maximum amount of time under State of Emergency laws. The accusations vary and are often vague, referenced as ‘membership to an armed terror organization’ or merely ‘terror’, not a defined crime under the Turkish Penal Code.

Since news of their detainment, the human rights defenders were targeted in some media sources, where they were accused of being ‘spies’, conducting ‘secret meetings’, and links with the coup attempt of July 15th, the Gezi protests of 2013, and the CIA were fabricated.

According to universal norms, even the state of emergency rule is based on rule of law and cannot be implemented arbitrarily. Therefore, their rights to life, personal liberty and security should be respected in line with the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. Fair trial standards dictate that presumption of innocence is paramount and the accused shall not be kept in detainment for an unreasonable amount of time without appearing in front of an impartial court.

These eight human rights defenders have dedicated their lives to the protection of human rights in Turkey. Their efforts have helped and inspired many others in the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Our colleagues Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran, Günal Kurşun, Veli Acu, Şeyhmuz Özbekli, Nejat Taştan, Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner should be released immediately! Arbitaty pressure on human rights defenders in Turkey should cease immediately!

UPDATE: Their detainment was extended for seven more days (until Wednesday, the 19th of July) by the prosecutor, but they have not been charged with any crime.

UPDATE 2: On July 18th, Nejat Taştan has been released on bail. But six of the ten human rights defenders have been jailed pending trial.

UPDATE 3: Nejat Taştan along with the other three human rights defenders has been jailed.

UPDATE 4: Nejat Taştan has been released pending trial under the condition that he must report the the police twice a week.


About Us

We are committed to strengthening a broad right of assembly:

  • We pay attention to restrictions and oversights by the regulatory agencies and the police.
  • We publish reports containing photos, in which people are pixelated.
  • We are independent of the organizers and are clearly identified as assembly observers.
  • We try to be as close as possible to the assemblies in order to observe in detail.
  • Cooperation with investigating authorities is not taking place of course.

We dissociate ourselves from assemblies from which a message of nationalist, racist or religious hatred or a call for discrimination emanates.

Contact via:
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As of 19.02.2016
Guiding Principles

1. We want to contribute to the protection and the further development of the constiutional right of assembly and demonstration. Art. 8 of the German Constitution, the Grundgesetz(GG), is one of the few passages in the GG where radical, direct democracy finds a basis. Our aim is, starting from this art. 8 GG, to stengthen the right to assemble and demonstrate, whereas otherwise our democracy is largely reduced to the procedures of representative democracy. . In the light of the developments observed in recent years, we want to remind of the Brokdorf decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of 1985 (BVerfGE 69, 315), which clearly states that “not any interest whatsoever justifies a restriction of this right of liberty”; Inconveniencies, which result necessarily from the exercise of fundamental rights by large numbers of people and can not be avoided without detriment to the purpose of the event, will generally have to be borne by third parties.” The disturbance caused by this piece of untamed democracy frequently results in biased reports by government institutions and large parts of the media. We want to counter this by independent, reliable information.

2. We observe demonstrations in this interest. Our group works independently both from government agencies and the organizers of the demonstration or assembly (but cp. point (b) under “Procedure”). We are, however, partially in the sense that we want to speak up for the constitutional right of freedom of assembly and to contribute to its unimpeded exertion. We report on the form of and the events during the assembly, if possible including the conduct of public authorities and police, starting from the announcement of the asembly (esp. with regard to the restrictions imposed). Also we report on the manner, in which the public is informed by authorities and media prior to the event.. We focus on restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly and expression (if they occur), but we also report on positive examples of the exertion of these rights of course. The reports are independent of the police / regulatory authorities and / or participating groups, thus contributing to a better public perception of assemblies. For this purpose, the reports clearly distinguish between the presentation of the observed events and an assessment of the happenings in the light of our basic interest according to point (1). The reports contain all events observed by the observers and relevant to the overall events. The documentation in text and photographs/video is given in such a way that it can not be used as incriminating evidence in criminal proceedings against participants. Insofar as documentation material could be used against individual police officers, this will not not be published either, but can be made available to the injured party.
3.Besides reports on demonstrations we will also take up on an ad hoc basis issues such as police brutality or court decisions concerning the right of assembly and publish about them in blog posts. Contrary to the report on demonstrations, these blogposts are not necessarily written by several authors and may represent opinions of the individual authors. In this case, these reports are initialled or signed by the author.

4. Everybody interested in these topics, who agrees with the jointly developed principles set out in point (1), is welcome in the group. This means, however, that we do not cooperate with persons and groups supporting fascist, racist, or otherwise xenophobic or anti-democratic views.

5. Procedure of Observation:

A. We make ourselves identifiable as observers are generally recognizable as such by clothing and name plates identity cards.
B. We try to act, iin agreement with the persons organizing the demonstration;f possible, in the demo observation is discussed with the applicants – but in no case we shall act against their explicit will.
C. Also spontaneous and unannounced meetings and actions may be observed as well.
D. The group decides according to the urgency and availability of the demo observers, which events are getting shall be observed.
E. Regardless Independent of the personal opinion on the issues concerns and forms of the respective demonstration concerned, during the demo the observers restrain from expressions of approval and disapproval are holding back with accusations of apprehension or indignation and do not interfere with in the events by giving advise or warnings to the participantswith prompts and reminders to the protesters. A desirable side effect is that their presence of observers makes the police aware of the fact, that they are being watched.
F. Photos / videos which may be used in prosecution  of participants of the assemblies should not be made at all. Individuals may not be identifiable on published material, photo- and video material always is stored exclusively encrypted.
g. Press releases and reports are prepared on a joint evaluation meeting, if possible immediately after following the demonstration, and are published at . Observations of other persons are included in the reports only exceptionally and with reference to this fact.

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Source: eRecht24

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