Special rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Council in a statement issued on Wednesday condemned the preventable death of lawyer Ebru Timtik after a hunger strike and called on the Turkish government to release human rights defenders.
The statement, which was issued by 10 special rapporteurs, reads: “No one should have to die in pursuit of a fair trial; it is a fundamental human right. This is an utter waste of a human life, and we are greatly dismayed at the death of this, courageous woman human rights defender, as well as the circumstances that led to her death.”
Timtik had been in prison since September 12, 2018 on charges of membership in the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C). She was accused of “communicating the organization’s messages to captured members and acting as a courier.” On March 20, 2019 the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court sentenced Timtik to 13 years, six months. Her case was awaiting review by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals.
The case was based on the testimony of a secret witness who has been used by the prosecution in a variety of cases. The DHKP/C is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
Shortly after Timtik’s arrest, UN human rights experts had formally asked the Turkish government to explain the legal basis for her arrest and that of other imprisoned lawyers and the accusations against them.
In their statement the special rapporteurs said, “We asked the Turkish Government in 2017 to explain how their arrest and conviction were compatible with the State’s obligations under international human rights law.” Emphasizing allegations of unlawful detention, unfair trial and restrictions on the freedoms of expression and association, the rapporteurs said they “regret that little was done to prevent this tragic outcome.”
The UN special rapporteurs called for an effective investigation into the death of Timtik, saying: “We call on the authorities to establish an accountability process for the victim and to uphold fair trial principles by reopening the cases of arrested human rights lawyers. The Government of Turkey must also take immediate action to release individuals detained and sentenced contrary to international law.”
In a statement the European Union had said it was deeply saddened by the death of Timtik, who was the fourth prisoner to die in Turkey this year as a result of a hunger strike. “The tragic outcome of their fight for a fair trial painfully illustrates the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country,” the EU statement read.