The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) strongly condemns the prison sentences handed down on 3 July 2020 against four human rights defenders in Turkey on grounds of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation without being a member thereof” or “membership of a terrorist organisation.” Taner Kılıç (honorary president of Amnesty Turkey) was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months, and Günal Kurşun (lawyer and Human Rights Agenda Association), İdil Eser (Amnesty Turkey), and Özlem Dalkıran (Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly) each received sentences of 1 year and 13 months.
The defendants were on trial as part of a case known as the “Istanbul 10” trial against 11 human rights defenders.
While the NHC welcomes the acquittal of the seven other defendants in the case, including Nejat Taştan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights), Nalan Erkem (Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly), İlknur Üstün (Women’s Coalition), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Şeyhmus Özbekli (Rights Initiative), Ali Gharavi (consultant) and Peter Steudtner (consultant), we remain concerned about the legitimacy of the entire trial.
The decision to arrest, detain, and prosecute these human rights defenders for their attendance of a meeting is a clear attack against their legitimate and peaceful work to uphold fundamental freedoms.”
The entire case, including the earlier detention of nine of the 11 defendants, had already raised serious concerns about violations of the basic tenets of a number of international human rights and law treaties to which Turkey is party. The verdict and sentencing set a dangerous precedent for pending and any possible future trials against human rights defenders in Turkey. In reality, this trial and the resulting verdicts goes far beyond the 11 human rights defenders who were prosecuted, but represents an indictment of Turkey’s human rights community as a whole.
As of writing, the four human rights defenders who have been convicted have not been detained. An appeal will be lodged to the regional court, and the NHC will continue to call for the norms set by international standards to be respected throughout the appeal procedure, and that all charges be dropped.