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Joint Action And Collaboration To Defend The Right To Fair Trial

The human rights record of Turkey has gotten from bad to worse by the day through the last decade. We had neither been living in a country of rule of law, independent and impartial judiciary, and fair trial in the past. Yet now, we live in an “anti-law” regime where the laws are not enforced as required, where human rights abuses have become the norm, and “state of emergency” and arbitrariness prevail as dominating practices. Despite the backlash against human rights and erosion of the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms in every compartment of life, human rights defenders are exceptionally determined, resistant and diligent in protecting the right to fair trial. The perseverance of rights defenders continue to be a source of inspiration and hope for the establishment of rule of law that ensures fundamental rights and freedoms.

With the surge in the number of trials which are exploited as tools for the seizure of rights and freedoms, the erosion of legal norms and the control of the social sphere, we have witnessed increasing disregard of the principle of proportionality which is the basis of law, unfair prolongation of legal processes, and all sorts of procedural violations. While intimidation and harassment through the abuse of judicial means target expanding numbers of people from all walks of life, rights defenders and members of non-governmental organizations working to protect and expand rights and freedoms for all are particularly targeted. The chain effects of this targeted pressure on rights defenders also threaten their relatives and lawyers.

Although declared to have officially ended in July 2018, the state of emergency (SoE) has become widespread and continuous with “temporary” measures employed in different localities and has been integrated into the system through its various components. On 31 July 2018, the ruling party majority in the Parliament passed Law No 7145 on the Amendment of Some Laws and Emergency Decrees which allows arbitrary restrictions and violation of rights and freedoms by the administration, rendering the SoE permanent. The law on The Prevention of the Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction which clearly violates the constitution and freedom of association was enacted on 27 December 2020. Buttressed by anti-democratic clauses in the Anti-Terror Law and in the Turkish Penal Code, it is clear that these reinforcements in the legal plane serve to curb rights and freedoms, as well as to consolidate the climate of fear and intimidation, to stifle rights defenders and non-governmental organizations and to further strain their work.

Reversing this full-court oppression and siege requires long-term solidarity and effective cooperation in the widest possible scope and versatility. In order to contribute to increasing the capacity and impact of valuable solidarity and efforts to that end, we rolled up our sleeves for an action that aims to monitor a number of relevant court cases, and to document and record incidents and indicators of harassment and intimidation deployed by the abuse of judicial power and process. Since 2018, we have followed 14 court cases launched against rights defenders from different organizations and social circles, in solidarity with and for the defence of those who make the effort and toil over for the protection and expansion of rights and freedoms in various fields. We have aimed to contribute to overcoming the challenges they face by way of judicial harassment. In the light of the lessons we learned during that process and by many other struggles carried out in this field, we now start a new phase of our case monitoring work.

In the next two and a half years, we will focus mainly on legal actions related to the freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Our work on case/trial monitoring for the protection of these freedoms will be based on four main axes:

· supporting the growth of coordination and complementary cooperation among non-governmental organizations and initiatives engaged in tackling judicial harassment,

· supporting the expansion and diversification of non-governmental organizations that engage in the fight against the erosion of rule of law and against judicial harassment, and, contributing to the furthering of civic capacity in monitoring, documenting and reporting, and to improving the calibre of effectiveness,

· ensuring the legibility of the factors that obstruct the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, especially the right to access justice and to fair trial,

· contributing to the strengthening of awareness of rights violations based on gender discrimination and/or targeting minorities, and taking action for their eradication.

As EuroMed Rights, Human Rights Association and Citizens Assembly in this new joint venture, we will be paying special care and attention to further and reinforce the impact of past and ongoing efforts in the field. We will prioritize identifying gaps and focusing our energy to unattended corners. To this end, we envisage proceeding along a collaborative roadmap where we can share our respective experiences and knowledge in a secure environment, in contact and consultation with rights defenders with experience and expertise in different fields and disciplines.

We believe that participation and contributions of rights defenders with whom our paths will cross down this road will inspire efforts to protect rights defenders and to building a more fair, just, righteous and effective judicial system in Turkey, and beyond, across the Mediterranean basin, and increase our joint impact.

We look forward to seeing you during our activities that we will launch in fall. Until then, stay well, stay safe.

Friendly regards,

Citizens AssemblyEuroMed RightsHuman Rights Association

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