A United Nations human rights expert has slammed the government of Turkey for using vague terrorism charges to arrest activists who are raising awareness against its crimes.
“I am greatly concerned that anti-terrorism laws are being used extensively to silence Turkish human rights defenders and disrupt their legitimate work defending human rights,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
She warned that Ankara has been abusing Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code and Article 7 of its Anti-Terror Law, which concern leaders and members of armed organizations, to convict human rights defenders and hand them lengthy prison sentences.
“In Turkey, human rights lawyers are particularly targeted for their work representing human rights defenders, victims of human rights violations, victims of police violence and torture, and many people who simply express dissenting opinions,” Lawlor said.
“Turkey is violating some of the pillars of international human rights law – freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to lawfully practice one’s own profession – by repeatedly depriving human rights defenders and lawyers of their freedom.”
She cited as an example the case of Osman Kavala, a businessman and human rights defender, who in February 2020 was acquitted, along with eight others, of participating in the 2013 Istanbul Gezi Park protests that kicked off a wave of demonstrations.
Turkish security forces, however, arrested him on vague terrorism charges only hours after a judge ruled there was “not enough concrete evidence” against Kavala.