The following statement was issued at a press conference on 7 November, by a coalition of international lawyers who observed this week’s KCK trial of lawyers at Silivri, Istanbul. Peace in Kurdistan campaign coordinated a delegation from the UK to observe the hearing. Margaret Owen, human rights lawyer, has been writing a blog for the International Criminal Law Bureau throughout her week in Istanbul. You can read her blog posts here:
Day 3: http://tinyurl.com/cz4u3cu
Peace in Kurdistan – Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
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Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh –
We, as international lawyers representing the undersigned organisations, were yesterday in Silivri to observe the continuation of the trial of our colleagues: 46 Kurdish lawyers and 3 members of their staff. We summarise our concerns around the following issues;
The first hearing for this trial, which started in July 2012 in Istanbul, was monitored by these international lawyers also.
Yesterday, on the 6th November 2012 we observed the second hearing in Silivri/Istanbul.
The dominant issue for the court, the right to use the Kurdish language in defending the indictment charges was yet again denied. This was despite the very compelling submissions advanced by the defence lawyers and the proposed new changes in the law by the ministry of justice relating to the use of the mother tongue in the law courts.
The right to use the mother tongue has been a central issue in this trial (as in other KCK trials). Its prohibition has recently led to hundreds of Kurdish prisoners joining unlimited hunger strikes in protest. Several of the hunger strikers have now reached their 58th day and are nearing death. Yesterday we learnt that the lawyers on trial have also now joined the hunger strikes, as have another one thousand political prisoners.. The defence lawyers advanced compelling arguments for the use of the Kurdish language as a means of ending the continuing hunger strikes and saving lives. They requested the release of the prisoners, in view of the new law on mother tongue use proposed by the Minister of Justice. All these arguments were rebutted.
However, the continued denial of the Court to recognise this right led to the defence lawyers walking out of the court room as a protest against the decision, and the trail halted. To the astonishment of the international observers, the Judge continued the trial without the presence of the defence lawyers, which is against Turkish law.
Other aspects in the management of the hearings that we observed are not consistent with the principles which govern the right to a fair trial:
– the lawyers were not able to see their clients, let alone speak with them, because of the ranked lines of guards standing between them to block their way.
– the families of the detained lawyers were unable to attend the proceedings, because the court was too small, even though the hearing was removed to a court room in Silivri.
– the trial lasted less than 2 hours;
– when detained lawyers attempted to speak in Kurdish, the microphone was turned off.
We, the international observers, express our grave concern that the Court has adjourned the trial to the 3rd January 2013. We would remind the Turkish authorities that the European Convention on Human Rights requires Turkey to come to decisions within a reasonable time frame – especially when the defendants are in detention – in order not to unnecessarily extend their custody, which, in this present case, is an extremely urgent issue since the lawyers are now on hunger strike.
Our organisations express, at the close of this hearing, their deepest concern about the way the trial is proceeding, and about the total lack of respect of the fundamental guarantees of the rights of the defence. They call upon the Turkish authorities to take prompt action in order to remedy these irregularities, as well as to ensure that the internationally recognized principles of a fair trial are complied with.
Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association (IBA)
Conférence Internationale des Barreaux de Tradition Juridique Commune (CIB)
European Democratic Lawyers (EDL / AED)
European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights
International Association of People’s Lawyers
Sollicitors International Human Rights Group (UK)
Lawyers for Lawyers (Netherlands)
Netherlands Bar Association
Amsterdam Bar Association
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland
Fair Trial Watch (Netherlands)
Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium)
Lawyers Without Border (Sweden)
Conseil National des Barreaux (France)
Fédération Nationale des Unions de Jeunes Avocats (FNUJA)
Syndicat des Avocats de France (SAF)
Barreau de Grenoble
Barreau de Montpellier
Barreau de Paris
Barreau de Quimper
Barreau de Nantes
barreau de Bordeaux
Barreau de Toulouse
Ordre français des Avocats du Barreau de Bruxelles
Barreau de Rennes
Institut des droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Grenoble
Institut des Droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Montpellier
Alternative Intervention of Lawyers (AIL) Athen/Greece@
UK Bar Human Rights Committee
Peace in Kurdistan UK
Independent UK lawyers
Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales
Republikanischer Anwaeltinnen- und Anwaelteverein (RAV)/Germany
Deutscher Anwalt111verein (DAV)/Germany