TURKEY: Urgent action letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on the failure of Turkey to carry out a genuine investigation into the killing of Tahir Elçi

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) joins 47 international organisations in a letter to several UN Special Rapporteurs requesting urgent action ahead of the next hearing in the criminal trial of those accused of killing lawyer Tahir Elçi in 2015.

Tahir Elçi was a prominent figure within the international and domestic lawyers’ community. He had practiced law for around 25 years. At the time of his death, he was the President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. He was well known for having acted for victims in a number of leading cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights concerning the forced evictions of Kurdish villages, enforced disappearances, summary executions, and torture and ill-treatment by the security and/or state-affiliated forces.

As a part of these activities, as the president of Diyarbakir Bar Association, he helped to organise a press conference to draw attention to the damage inflicted on the cultural and historic heritage in the region during the armed clashes. The press conference took place in front of a historic minaret damaged by security operations on the morning of 28 November 2015. During this conference, an armed clash took place between two armed PKK militia members and the police, during which Tahir Elçi was shot dead.

The letter requests the Special Rapporteurs call on the Turkish authorities to ensure:

i. The case is heard by an independent, impartial, and competent court that is capable of establishing the facts and truth around the killing of Mr. Elçi;
ii. All future hearings comply with international standards regarding the right to a fair trial, in which the victims’ rights are also recognised;
iii. The hostile attitude from the court towards the Elçi family and their lawyers and the court’s persistent refusal to follow the rules of procedure and principles of both domestic and international law are not repeated in future hearings;
iv. The lawyers for the Elçi family are given reasonable opportunities to be heard and to make their applications in relation to the procedure and the evidence;
v. Where submissions are refused, reasons for refusal are given in accordance with the case law of the ECtHR;
vi. Following a fair judicial procedure, those who are responsible for Mr. Elçi’s killing are held accountable and serve sentences appropriate to the gravity of the crime committed; and
vii. Mr. Elçi’s family is provided with appropriate redress for the violations they and their loved one have suffered in accordance with the international obligations of Turkey and the Minnesota Protocol.

List of signature organisations

Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, Amsterdam Bar Association, Article 19, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC), Cartoonists Rights Network International, Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP), Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE), Danish PEN, Denmark Defence Without Borders – Solidarity Lawyers (DSF-AS), Dutch League for Human Rights, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH), Fair Trial Watch, French National Bar Council (CNB), Gelderland Bar Association, Geneva Bar Association, Giuristi Democratici, Human Rights Commission of the European Bars Federation (FBE), Human Rights in Practice, International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), Italian National Bar Council (CNF) , Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Lawyers without Borders, Limburg Bar Association, Lyon Bar Association, Midden-Nederland Bar Association, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) , Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Noord-Holland Bar Association, Noord-Nederland Bar Association, Oost-Brabant Bar Association, Overijssel Bar Association, Research Institute on Turkey, Rotterdam Bar Association, Rovereto Bar Association, Swiss Democratic Lawyers, The European Association of Lawyers (AEA-EAL) , The Foundation day of the Endangered Lawyer , The Hague Bar Association, The Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers (UIA-IROL), The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) , The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger (OIAD), The International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR), The joint Presidents of the Local Bar Associations of the Netherlands, The Law Society of England and Wales, The National Lawyers Guild (U.S.) International Committee, and Zeeland-West-Brabant Bar Association.