We use litigation as a tool for strategic intervention to strengthen human rights protection in Turkey and to improve access to justice. We seek to influence the advancement of human rights standards by supporting lawyers, human rights defenders and NGOs to bring successful cases before national authorities, as well as international bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights and UN monitoring mechanisms.
Our litigation work mainly focuses on the infringement of rights occurring in relation to state of emergency policies and practices. We also assist with cases that highlight important shortcomings in the system of human rights protection and the rule of law in Turkey, striving to set precedence and trigger change in legislation or administrative practices. We directly support applicants or their representatives to access and use available remedies, and submit third party interventions and expert opinions on key legal issues.
Currently, we dedicate a substantial amount of our work to the following areas:
Restriction and suspension of rights under the state of emergency
The impact of the fight against terrorism and the derogation regime on the rights of suspects in criminal proceedings, particularly the right to liberty and security
Civil and political rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly
Protection against arbitrary interference with personal autonomy, private and family life, the right to respect for freedom of thought and conscience, and the right to property
Prohibition of discrimination
Our Litigation Work |
The case of Telek & Others v Turkey, concerns the cancellation of passports of three academics who, together with more than two thousand others, supported a “Petition for Peace” and as a result were prosecuted, dismissed from academic institutions and banned from public service under state of emergency legislation in Turkey. Despite the state of emergency having come to an end in July 2018, the applicants, like others, are still deprived of a valid passport, unable to travel or to engage in academic work at home or abroad, and have had no opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of the measures taken against them. Their case forms part of what has been described as a severe blow to academic freedom and democratic institutions in Turkey in recent years. On behalf of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, Amnesty International, Article 19 and PEN International, a third party intervention was submitted to the Court urging the Court to apply the Convention in light of relevant international standards on academic freedom and on the fundamental nature of the right to remedy in situations of emergency. The brief also addresses the current lack of legal remedies for the widespread practice of passport cancellations in Turkish courts.
The case of Mehmet Osman Kavala v. Turkey, currently before the ECtHR, concerns the October 2017 arrest and pre-trial detention of a highly regarded civil society leader, publisher and human rights defender. Mehmet Osman Kavala has worked with and supported a variety of civil projects aimed at promoting open dialogue, peace, minority and human rights, and democratic values. While an official indictment has not been filed, charges against him include: attempting to abolish the constitutional order and overthrow the government by using force under Articles 309 and 321 of the Turkish Criminal Code, on account of his support of and involvement in the organisation and financing of Gezi protests and alleged involvement in corruption and the failed coup d’etat. The case against Kavala is emblematic of prevalent trends in Turkey, where arbitrary detention and prosecution of human rights defenders is widespread, with insidious implications for human rights and the rule of law. On behalf of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project and PEN International, a third party intervention was submitted to the Court, outlining international law standards, including on the protection of human rights defenders.
Ayşe Çelik was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a custodial sentence for the broad-reaching and ill-defined crime of ‘disseminating propaganda’ in favour of a terrorist organisation (under Article 7/(2) of Law no. 3713 on the Fight Against Terrorism). Her purported offence consists of comments made during a telephone call to a television show stating that in South East Turkey “unborn children, mothers and people are being killed” and that the media must “not keep silent”. Helen Duffy and Philip Leach presented a joint expert opinion to the Turkish Constitutional Court in September 2018, examining international law standards on the criminalisation and prosecution of crimes of expression.