Report by Pete Weatherby QC on behalf of the BHRC finds violations of fair trial rights in Turkey

5 September 2017

The Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) released its trial observations from the first substantive proceedings against journalists in Turkey in June 2017. The trial observation report, written by Garden Court North Chambers’ Pete Weatherby QC, raises serious concern over violations of international law and fair trial rights in Turkey.

Pete attended the first three days of the proceedings against seventeen journalists in the case of Altan and Others in June 2017. The charges included offences against seventeen journalists and other media workers stemming from the failed coup in 2016. Six of the journalists have been held in detention since their arrest last year, and ten of the journalists have yet to be apprehended. Only one defendant has been granted bail during the course of these proceedings.

The report takes issue with the continued state of emergency in Turkey, the lack of independence of the judiciary and violations of various fair trial rights, including the right to legal assistance without undue delay, the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare one’s defence, the right to specificity of charges, and the right to an open trial. The nature of the accusations and the limited evidence provided against the defendants, as well as the sheer number of detained journalists since the failed coup, calls into question the validity and sincerity of the accusations and suggests a disregard for freedom of expression in Turkey.

BHRC urges the Turkish government and the judiciary (where appropriate) to:

  • Honour constitutional and international commitments to the rule of law and fundamental rights and protections;
  • Re-evaluate whether the state of emergency remains necessary;
  • Introduce measures to reinstate the independence of the judiciary and prosecution;
  • Release all those detained in the aftermath of the coup and discontinue charges unless there is clear and substantial evidence of actual criminality whereupon bail provisions should be properly implemented; and
  • Make a public commitment to ensure that freedom of expression is robustly protected and that journalists will be safeguarded from arrest and prosecution for investigating, reporting and commenting on issues of the day.

You can read the full report here.

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