The winner of this year’s Human Rights Award is Turkish human rights lawyer Ramazan Demir, who has been representing victims, journalists and lawyers in Turkey under extremely difficult conditions.
The members of the IBA judging panel were particularly impressed by Demir’s significant personal endeavours and for his high impact on defence work in extremely challenging and threatening circumstances. Lawyers for Lawyers, which nominated him, praise him for his “outstanding contribution to the protection, advancement and promotion of human rights”, in particular in the Kurdish south east of Turkey. “He has shown great dedication, determination and courage,” says a nominator, adding that at the age of only 33, he “stands out as a prominent and fearless defender of the rule of law”.
Among his most notable work, Demir has defended journalists, academics, politicians and lawyers being accused of terrorism. He has been one of a group of lawyers documenting human rights violations in southeast Turkey and has recently been defending 46 lawyers who have worked for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and are accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
In 2013, Demir advised on cases relating to police violence during the Gezi Park and May 1 demonstrations and in 2016 represented academics prosecuted for signing the Declaration of Peace. He has also been litigating on behalf of victims in the conflict between the PKK and Turkish forces and has brought cases before the European Court of Human Rights. As a result, he has twice been charged by the state. He most recently spent seven months in pre-trial detention charged with terrorist related activities, because of his work for TUAD (an association for relatives of prisoners in Southeast Turkey).
Despite the trial ongoing, Demir has taken up his work again.