Turkey: Respect ECtHR ruling and end politically motivated trials against Demirtaş

ARTICLE 19 calls on Turkey to respect the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) judgment of 20 November 2018, which found that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş’ pre-trial detention was politically motivated.

ARTICLE 19 calls for Turkey to respect its obligations under international and domestic law. The Turkish authorities must give effect to the Court’s judgment without delay given the country’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Constitution. David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programmes at ARTICLE 19, said: “the European Court ruling on Demirtaş’s detention as politically motivated is a wake-up call for the Turkish government. All charges against him must be dropped and he should be released immediately.”

In November 2017, ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch jointly intervened as a third party in Demirtaş’ case. We welcome the Court’s unprecedented finding of a violation of Article 18 in a case against Turkey. Article 18 is violated when an applicant can prove the incongruence between the real aim of an action and the proclaimed objective. In this regard, the Court found that “it had been established beyond reasonable doubt that the extensions of Mr Demirtaş’ detention, especially during two crucial campaigns, the referendum and the presidential election, had pursued the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate: the very core of the concept of a democratic society.” The Court further also found violations of the right to liberty and the right to free and fair elections.

Selahattin Demirtaş, who was the co-chair of the HDP and a member of parliament at the time of his arrest, was in pre-trial detention from 4 November 2016. In the case at hand, he faces a potential prison sentence of more than a hundred years under terrorism charges relating to his speeches at, and attendance of, demonstrations.

Despite the European Court’s judgment of 20 November and its implication that Demirtaş must be released immediately to avoid prolonging the violations of the Convention, the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court rejected his request for release, claiming that the verdict was not definitive because it was not pronounced by the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR. Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention continued for 14 days after the judgment, in defiance of Turkey’s obligations under international and domestic law. On 4 December 2018, Demirtaş was sentenced to 56-months imprisonment for another case, which was upheld by the Second Criminal Chamber of Istanbul Regional Court. Demirtaş remains at Edirne F Type Prison.

ARTICLE 19 continues to be extremely alarmed by Turkey’s politically motivated crackdown against free expression. The ECtHR’s ruling in the case of Demirtaş must be implemented and acted upon to drop all other politically motivated cases against Demirtaş and others who have been criminalised on account of their speech. “Failure to respect the Courts ruling will be a definitive indictment on the independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and the erosion of its democratic system” Diaz-Jogeix stated.

Between 12 and 14 December 2018 Demirtaş will attend another trial on charges of “establishing and leading a terrorist organization”, “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and “praising the crime and the criminal”. ARTICLE 19 calls international and national observers to closely monitor this trial.