"Counter-terrorism legislation used to target human rights defenders"
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said on Monday that 18 human rights defenders will stand trial in Turkey on 13 December over "terror" charges "in retaliation for their work supporting the rights of the internally displaced."
Lawlor said in a written statement:
"The 18 human rights defenders are charged in relation with their current or previous membership of GOCIZDER, a non-governmental organization working to highlight grave human rights violations that have occurred in the context of forced displacement in Turkey and which works to help with the repatriation of victims. Lawful and standard financial transactions between the members of GOCIZDER (such as payment to an attorney, or a graphic designer) have reportedly been portrayed as financing terrorism, without tangibly showing any connection. They are also accused of spreading PKK terrorist ideology among internally displaced persons."
She noted that the human rights defenders in custody, who were arrested in June in house raids, "have had limited access to medicine and medical assistance and at least one of those detainees, Bilal Yildiz, has reportedly been subjected to particularly harsh conditions during his detention."
"The Government replied to the communication denying these allegations," Lawlor added. "The reply claimed that the individuals are not being kept in overcrowded cells, have access to medication and no complaints have been received from Mr. Yildiz about his treatment in detention. The Government also reiterated in its reply that GOCIZDER had been using its funds to support a terrorist organization with funds it received from international organizations."
"I am deeply concerned by this apparent misuse of counter-terrorism legislation to target human rights defenders carrying out their legitimate work supporting and sharing information on the rights of the internally displaced. It is deeply troubling to see how Turkey's courts are yet again being weaponized against those who seek to uphold human rights in the country. The human rights defenders from GOCIZDER should be swiftly acquitted."