IBAHRI and ICJ urge Turkey’s Council of Judges and Prosecutors to cease probe into Gezi Park trial judges
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urge the Turkish Council of Judges and Prosecutors (CJP) – Turkey’s legal disciplinary body responsible for judicial appointments – to stop their investigation into the three judges of the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court who, on 18 February 2020, acquitted the 16 defendants in the Gezi Park trial due to a lack of evidence. Having observed all hearings of the trial, the IBAHRI and ICJ welcomed the acquittals.
However, Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who was among those exonerated, was re-arrested within hours on a charge connected to the failed coup attempt of 2016: ‘attempting to disrupt the constitutional order’. Mr Kaval has been in continuous detention since 18 October 2017.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘The IBAHRI and the ICJ jointly welcomed the acquittal of Osman Kavala and the other 15 defendants. Now, we condemn the re-arrest of Mr Kavala, continue to stand with the defendants, and call for Mr Kavala’s immediate release. We implore the Turkish Council of Judges and Prosecutors to reconsider the hugely damaging impact their inspection of the judges will have on the principles of judicial independence and the rights of lawyers, and to cease all action in this respect.’
‘The launch of such an investigation is a further sign of the collapse of the rule of law in Turkey,’ said Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser for the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme. ‘The disciplinary proceedings against these judges appear to be a direct interference in their decision-making power and will have a chilling effect on the independence of all members of the judiciary. The role of the CJP should be to protect the independence of the judiciary, not to be an instrument of control and pressure against individual judges.’
The launch of the investigation into the judges occurred immediately after the aforementioned acquittals, spurred on by vehement public protest against the verdict by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Thirty Turkish bar associations have issued a joint statement calling for the resignation of the members of the CJP, considering this investigation to be a violation of the principle of judicial independence under the Turkish Constitution.
Notes to the Editor
- The Gezi Park protests began in May 2013 as an effort by a group of environmentalists to save a park in central Istanbul from being rezoned. These soon grew into nationwide demonstrations which were quelled by the police with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
- The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.
- The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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