JOINT STATEMENT BY RIGHTS DEFENDERS: ‘We are Together Against the Attempt to Eliminate Civil Society’

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  • February 27, 2019
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Representatives from more than ten human rights organizations held a joint press conference concerning the indictment and charges brought against Osman Kavala and 15 civil society representatives today (February 27).

In the conference, which was also attended by journalists from international media organizations, rights defenders gave the message that they would stand side by side against all types of attacks directed at civil society.

Ten human rights organizations operating in Turkey have signed the document entitled “We are Together Against the Attempt to Eliminate Civil Society” so far: Civil Rights Defenders, Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (AMER), Initiative for Rights Association, Truth Justice Memory Center, Human Rights Association (İHD), Human Rights Agenda Association, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Amnesty International, Citizens’ Assembly.

On behalf of these human rights organizations, the joint statement for the press was read out by Ruhat Sena Akşener, the Campaigns – Advocacy Director for the Amnesty International Turkey.

Here are some of the highlights from the statement:

“Gezi Park protests is not a crime”

“In response to the unfounded claims about Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who have been behind bars, and other 15 civil society actors, who have been charged with ‘attempting to overthrow the government,’ we, as human rights organizations, are making a call to end the mounting pressure on and criminalization of civil society.

CLICK – Osman Kavala, 15 Rights Defenders Facing Life Sentence

“The people, against whom an investigation has been launched and an indictment has been filed, did not commit any crimes by taking part in Gezi protests, which need to be seen within the scope of freedom of expression.

“The court has to reject all indictments based on conspiracy theories fabricated to create a crime and do not contain a single reliable evidence. Osman Kavala, who has been arrested for 16 months, and Yiğit Aksakoğlu, who has been arrested for 3 months, have to be immediately released.

“End deliberate intimidation and legal abuse”

“We stand together against these attempts to eliminate independent civil society in Turkey and make a call to immediately put an end to the methods of deliberate intimidation and legal abuse directed against rights defenders. On this occasion, we would like to, once again, remind the authorities of their international obligations to protect human rights defenders.”

Referring to the ongoing trials of Academics for Peace and Özgür Gündem trials among many others, the statement also underlined that those cases “are used by the government to oppress and silence civil society in Turkey.”

Memory Center: “We are together against attempts to discredit human rights defenders”

After the joint statement for the press, Ümit Efe from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Emel Aktürk from the Memory Center, Erol Önderoğlu from the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Gülseren Yoleri from the Human Rights Association (İHD) also made statements.

While Efe stated that “they would neither get used to, nor give in to the trials” brought against rights defenders, Aktürk underlined that “most of the human rights defenders charged with ‘attempting to eliminate the constitutional order’ have devoted their years to human rights struggle’ and added, “It is not fair that they try to discredit them with such accusations.”

RSF: “It will destroy credibility of the government”

RSF Representative to Turkey Erol Önderoğlu also referred to the indictment filed against Kavala and Aksakoğlu as well as 15 other civil society actors:

“Human rights defenders, against whom no [legal] action has been taken for six years, are now charged with an indictment six years later. This indictment would destroy not our credibility, but that of the government.”

İHD İstanbul Branch Chair Gülseren Yoleri also stated, “We are going through a period when the judiciary is used as a threat to rights defenders. We are honored to share that we will not keep silent or give up being here.” (EMK/SD)