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Updated Statement on the Situation of Detained Human Rights Defenders

Updated Statement on the Situation of Detained Human Rights Defenders

Human rights defenders in Turkey should be released immediately!

On the morning of July 5 th , 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 6 th ), 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 15 th , 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!

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