Turkey misuses counterterrorism legislation to target human rights defenders: UN special rapporteur

Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, said in a statement on Monday that she is deeply concerned by the apparent misuse of counterterrorism legislation to target human rights defenders.

Lawlor’s statement came a day before the trial of 18 human rights defenders on Tuesday who are charged with “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

“I am deeply concerned by this apparent misuse of counter-terrorism legislation to target human rights defenders carrying out their legitimate work supporting and sharing information on the rights of the internally displaced,” she said.

The 18 human rights defenders are charged in relation to their current or previous membership in GÖÇİZDER, a nongovernmental organization working to highlight serious human rights violations brought about by forced displacement in Turkey and to contribute to the repatriation processes of those who have been subjected to such violations. 

In September three UN special rapporteurs sent a joint letter (Ref. AL TUR 6/2022) to the Turkish government expressing concern about their detention and criminalization. The UN officials urged Turkey to guarantee that the rights and freedoms of human rights defenders are fully respected and to prevent any irreparable damage to their life and personal integrity.

The UN letter was signed by Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin.

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