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Human Rights Defenders

    December 10, 2020

    A regional appeals court in Turkey ruled to uphold the baseless convictions of Taner Kılıç, İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun, four of the 11 human rights defenders in the Büyükada case. 

    In many cases these appeals decisions can take up to a year. The Büyükada first appeal decision took less than four months. This is unusually fast. 

    The decision does not contain the detailed reasoning expected from appeals courts and reads as a rubber stamp of the trial verdict. With this appeal court ruling, a crucial first opportunity to correct the wrong done in the trial verdict was sadly lost. 

    Now, all four will take their appeals to the Court of Cassation, the highest appeal court in Turkey. We will continue to urge for their convictions to be overturned. 

    December 03, 2020
    L-R: Mohamed Basheer, Gasser Abdel-Razek, and Karim Ennarah.

    BREAKING NEWS: On the evening of December 3, EIPR staff Mohamed Basheer, Karim Ennarah and Gasser Abdel-Razek were released from prison. We are awaiting further details and will update this page and actions on December 7.

    On November 3, 2020, members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)—one of a handful of independent human rights organizations continuing to operate in Egypt—hosted a meeting at their office with 13 Western diplomats, including representatives from Canada. Such meetings aren’t uncommon as human rights defenders around the world seek support and protection for their vital work.  

    One month later, however, the EIPR is struggling to continue operations in the face of arrests, office eviction, and an asset freeze.  

    July 09, 2020
    The verdict

    On 3 July 2020 the first instance court issued its verdict on the Büyükada case. It convicted Taner Kılıç of ‘membership of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)’ under Article 314/2 of the Penal Code, sentencing him to six years and three months’ imprisonment. The court convicted İdil Eser, Günal Kursun and Özlem Dalkıran for ‘knowingly and willingly supporting FETÖ’ under Article 220/7 of the Penal Code, sentencing each of them to 25 months’ imprisonment. The remaining seven human rights defenders were acquitted.

    May 11, 2020

    Top row (left to right): Nalan Erkem, İlknur Üstün, Veli Acu, Peter Steudtner

    Middle row (left to right): Idil Eser, Ali Gharavi, Nejat Taştan, Şeyhmus Özbekli,

    Bottom row (left to right): Günal Kurşun, Özlem Dalkıran, Taner Kılıç

    Nalan Erkem is a lawyer. She was a member of the board of directors of the İzmir Bar Association from 2002-2004 when she supported “The Role of Lawyers in the Prevention of Torture” project. As a member of the Citizens’ Assembly she has been undertaking key consultancy roles and served as member of its Board of Directors. She has also been a member of Amnesty International Turkey since its early days in 2001. She undertook many significant human rights projects and has written and published several reports based on her work.

    May 06, 2020

    On 3 July 2020 - three years after they were first detained - 11 human rights activists will hear a court’s verdict on charges which could result in jail terms of up to 15 years. One fundamental truth is beyond any doubt: they have done nothing wrong.

    What have they done?

    They have done nothing wrong. They stood up for human rights in Turkey. 

    The 11 - that includes the former chair, ex-director and several members of Amnesty Turkey as well as women’s and equality advocates – face absurd ‘terrorism’ charges without any credible evidence being presented over the course of ten hearings.

    Since their detention in 2017, more than two million people around the world – from Ai Wei Wei to Whoopi Goldberg - have spoken out for justice for the 11 rights defenders. Now as this unfair trial is coming to a close, we are asking you to join us in adding your voice and send a message of solidarity to the 11 activists ahead of the verdict.

    After all, when people who defend our rights are silenced, we are all at risk.

    When were they arrested and what are they accused of?

    December 18, 2018

    It’s a big question, but someone’s got to ask it. At this year’s Human Rights Defenders World Summit in Paris, France, Amnesty asked 11 prominent activists about the essence of human rights. Here’s what they said…

    August 08, 2018
    Demand freedom for women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia

    By Alex Neve
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

    Last week, two prominent and courageous women’s rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, were arrested in Saudi Arabia.

    No one imagined that on top of the personal injustice for Samar and Nassima that their arrest was going to spark a major diplomatic stand-off between Canada and Saudi Arabia about human rights.  And in doing so, put Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record in the international spotlight in ways that it rarely is.

    Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada are, sadly, two more in a growing list of women human rights defenders arrested and jailed in Saudi Arabia over the past three months. That includes Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, imprisoned since mid-May.  Loujain has strong Canadian connections, as she is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.  

    April 23, 2018

    As the space for civil society to peacefully advocate in support of human rights shrinks, being a human rights defender is getting increasingly dangerous. Women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are experiencing harassment and violence—both on and offline—because of what they’re advocating for AND because of their gender. The space for WHRDs to safely advocate for human rights, is getting even smaller. And the space for women of colour, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, and other marginalized women to advocate in support for human rights is even smaller still.

    February 14, 2018

    Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty Turkey, was arrested along with nine other participants when police stormed a routine workshop in Istanbul on 5 July 2017. Charged with “aiding a terrorist organization”, two were bailed while the other eight, including Idil, were held in pre-trial detention. Their arrest followed that of Amnesty’s Turkey chairman, Taner Kılıç, who had been imprisoned separately in June. After a global outpouring of action, Idil and her seven co-detainees were granted conditional release on 25 October, while Taner remained in jail.

    JULY–SEPTEMBER Thousands of signatures, letters and messages mounted around the world calling for the release of Idil and her colleagues.

    10 JULY Amnesty Belgium Director Philippe Hensmans posed in a cage in front of the Turkish embassy in Brussels, Belgium, to protest against the continued detention of his Turkish colleague.

    October 12, 2017
    Human Rights Defenders from Turkey who are in prison

    Today marks 100 days since Turkish security forces stormed a routine training workshop and bundled away 10 prominent human rights activists. Most of the group - dubbed the Istanbul 10 - have been locked-up in Turkey’s highest security prison.

    This week the prosecutor filed an indictment calling for the group, which includes a German and Swedish trainer and the director of Amnesty International Turkey, to be sentenced for up to 15 years on terrorism charges.

    The absurdity of the charges against them and the reasons they are being held in prison will leave you incredulous.

    So much for a “secret meeting”

    Turkish prosecutors have attempted to depict the meeting as a shadowy gathering of conspirators seeking to create “chaos in society”, BUT…

    1. This was not a secret meeting ... Many people from lots of organisations had been openly invited.

    October 03, 2017

    Peter Steudtner was detained along with nine others in July during a workshop in Istanbul, where he and Ali Gharavi were training human rights defenders on wellbeing and digital security. Among the attendees was Amnesty Turkey’s Director İdil Eser. Currently eight of them remain in prison and two are on bail, all facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. They have done nothing wrong.

    Peter has written a message from his cell about coping with life in prison:



    "To all who accompany me in thought and deed!

    A wholehearted thankyou to all who support us, especially to my family and friends (and all who support them), to the German government, Ministries, Embassy, Consulate; to my legal team, and to my holistic security team, HIVOS + KURVE Wustrow, to all political campaigns that demand our release!

    As I do not have any contact anymore with Ali and the other human rights defenders, I am writing this letter on my behalf only.

    October 03, 2017

    In July 2017, our friend and colleague İdil Eser, the Director of Amnesty Turkey, was detained along with nine other human rights defenders in Istanbul. Currently eight of them are in prison and two are on bail, all are facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. Yet they have done nothing wrong.

    It came only a month after Amnesty Turkey’s Chair, Taner Kılıç was detained, also unfairly. He remains in prison.

    On 14 October 2017, Amnesty will hold a global day of action demanding their release to coincide with Idil’s birthday.

    So why is this happening to them?

    What happened on 5 July 2017?

    It should have been an ordinary day for İdil Eser, director of Amnesty Turkey. She was attending a workshop on wellbeing and digital security with colleagues from other human rights organisations in Istanbul – the kind of gathering that takes place around the world every week. It included open discussions about the stresses they encounter and practical ways of dealing with these.

    But during the workshop police raided the building and detained them all, including the two workshop trainers.

    August 28, 2017

    By Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research, Amnesty International 

    Winter is coming. 

    Even if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones, you know the iconic, sinister saying. In the TV show, it is muttered meaningfully as a warning not only that after a long summer a harsh winter is ahead, but that winter brings with it an existential threat to the world—an army of the dead. This threat makes all the vicious scheming, treachery and feuding look insignificant and petty. 

    As a human rights defender watching leaders around the world scapegoating and dividing to score political points, I can’t help thinking that winter may be coming for all of us—a dark future where protection of human rights won’t mean much anymore. 

    The “summer” was long and fruitful. Seventy years ago the world came together in 1948 and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which stated for the first time that human rights must be protected across “all peoples and all nations.”  

    August 08, 2017

    On his 17th birthday, Omar al-Qahtani writes about his dad, Mohammad al-Qahtani, a human rights defender and founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), one of Saudi Arabia’s few independent human rights organizations. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for peacefully calling for reforms in the country.

    My name is Omar Al-Qahtani and today I turn 17.

    I have two brothers and two sisters, oldest is Abdullah (20), then Norah (18), than me, then Othman (15), and Layla (4). Then there’s also Harley Davidson (24 weeks), our kitten.

    We are what you would call a regular family, except we are far away from our father, who’s been in prison in Saudi Arabia for 5 years. Thankfully though, we talk to him every day. My father is a really brave man who will never give up on his beliefs. We are all so proud of him.

    My father loves to have fun with us and to enjoy life but he is very serious when it comes to school and work. Before his arrest, life in Saudi Arabia was different: easier, simpler. 

    July 31, 2017
      Tanya O'Carroll is a technology and human rights adviser at Amnesty International. Follow Tanya on Twitter @TanyaOCarroll    When the colleagues of Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner heard that they had been detained in Turkey, along with representatives of six renowned Turkish NGOs, they assumed there had been a misunderstanding. Ali, a Swedish IT strategy consultant, and Peter, a German nonviolence and wellbeing trainer, had been in Istanbul delivering a routine workshop, as they had done many times before in countries as far afield as Mexico and Pakistan. This was the first time their work had landed them in a police station.   But the detention of the two trainers was no accident. After 12 days in police custody, both men were remanded in prison along with four others including İdil Eser, the director of Amnesty Turkey. They are facing absurd and baseless allegations of terror links, and lengthy pre-trial detentions.   

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