ICC asked to investigate Turkish government over persecution of opponents
A panel of European legal experts has compiled a dossier of testimonies detailing torture, state-sponsored abduction, and unlawful detention of some 200,000 people allegedly committed by the Turkish government under the presidency of Tayyip Erdogan, British newspaper The Guardian reported.
“Turkish officials have committed crimes against humanity against hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Erdogan regime,” the submission says. “These crimes amount to a ‘widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population’, meeting the threshold for the ICC to launch proceedings against high ranking officials of the Erdogan regime.”
Turkey is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, but the Turkey Tribunal, a 2020 investigative body established by lawyers and human rights groups to gather evidence and testimony, said that at least some of the alleged crimes were committed on the territory of 45 ICC member states, as Turkey prosecuted its perceived enemies far beyond its borders. Therefore, the tribunal argues, the ICC has jurisdiction.
According to the ICC presentation, there were 17 cases of enforced disappearances in which victims were abducted from Kenya, Cambodia, Gabon, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia, and Switzerland and returned to Turkey. The targets were linked to the opposition movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Guelen, who was designated a terrorist organization after Guelen was accused of being behind a failed coup attempt in 2016 that was followed by hundreds of thousands of arrests in Turkey.
The Turkey Tribunal points out there is a precedent for investigating the crimes of a non-signatory state. In 2019, the ICC decided it could investigate Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, even though Myanmar did not recognise the court’s authority, because many of the victims had been deported to Bangladesh, which is an ICC signatory. Therefore, the tribunal argued, “elements of the crime had been committed in a member state”.
In the case of Turkey, it argues, “the crimes were committed on the territory of 45 party states, for which the ICC has territorial jurisdiction. These specific crimes are related to some 1300 victims.”