The rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a joint statement on Thursday about the conviction of four Turkish human rights defenders, including former chairman of Amnesty International Turkey Taner Kılıç.
Alexandra Louis, PACE general rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member states, said: “These convictions raise serious concerns about the functioning of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law in Turkey. In addition, they will have a new deterrent effect on the work of human rights defenders in Turkey.”
On July 3 a Turkish court convicted Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman Kılıç of membership in a terrorist organization and sentenced him to more than six years’ imprisonment. The court also convicted three other human rights activists — Günal Kurşun, İdil Eser and Özlem Dalkıran — on charges of aiding a terrorist organization, sentencing them to one year, one month each. They are free pending appeal. Seven other activists, including German citizen Peter Steudtner and Swede Ali Gharavi, were acquitted of the charges.
The monitoring co-rapporteurs for Turkey, Thomas Hammarberg and John Howell, expressed their concerns, saying: “These verdicts are regrettable and very serious. They could further contribute to silence dissenting or critical voices that are essential to the proper functioning of a democracy. We urge the Turkish authorities to revise legislation, in particular the Anti-Terror Law, and to change judicial practices to ensure the exercise of freedom of expression and assembly.”
At the end of their statement the three rapporteurs called on Turkish authorities “to review the Istanbul court’s judgment in light of the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights, to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders and to refrain from all acts of intimidation or reprisal against them.”