Category Archives: Ukategorisert

PEN welcomes the decision not to extradite Julian Assange, yet the threat to media freedom remains

Julian Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, speaking on news of the decision not to extradite, photo credit Jason Garcia.

The news today, 4 January 2021, of the decision not to extradite WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange to the USA is hugely welcome. The judge’s decision was made on medical grounds relating to Assange’s poor mental health. She did, however, make clear her view that there are otherwise grounds for the extradition request. The threat to freedom of the media and to investigative journalism therefore remains. The US government has 14 days to submit an appeal the court’s ruling, and Assange will remain detained at least until his bail hearing scheduled for 6 January.

PEN International calls for the withdrawal of the extradition request by the US government against Julian Assange. It also urges the UK courts not to accede to the demand to extradite Assange when it comes to appeal. Meanwhile, Julian Assange should be granted release from prison as a matter of urgency.

Assange has been held since April 2019 in the UK’s Belmarsh High Security Prison for breaching the UK Bail Act. He had taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. That he has been detained for so long under strict conditions in a high security prison without reasonable grounds and places his health at risk, demands that he be granted compensation for this unnecessary internment.

In May 2019, Julian Assange was indicted by the US Justice Department on 17 counts of violating the US Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. He was additionally charged on one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. UN experts, free expression groups and scores of human rights lawyers have made it clear that this prosecution raises profound concerns about freedom of the press under the First Amendment to the US Constitution and sends a dangerous signal to journalists and publishers worldwide, raising the possibility of legitimate news-gathering activities being criminalised. Through WikiLeaks, Julian Assange published classified material provided by whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, then a military analyst in the US army, which revealed evidence of human rights violations and possible war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. US prosecutors criticized Julian Assange for putting the identity of sources at risk by publishing unredacted materials.

If Assange were to be convicted as charged, this would open the door for further prosecutions of those who seek to disclose malpractice and human rights abuses by those in power by criminalising legitimate journalistic practice. In essence these practices are a) encouraging sources to provide information, b) protecting their anonymity and c) using secure means of communications.

The US Espionage act of 1917 was designed to punish spies and traitors working with foreign governments during wartime. Using it to sentence Chelsea Manning to 35 years in prison was in itself a threat to critical publishing. Manning, it should be noted, has since been pardoned. The fact that Julian Assange could face decades behind bars would cause a chilling effect on critical journalism seeking to expose the truth about crimes committed by governments. The fact that a government decides that a specific document is secret or confidential does not make it so, and on many occasions the public’s right to know overrides the state’s desire to keep matters secret, such as evidence of human rights violations or corruption.

PEN International

English PEN

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Turkish Civil Society in Peril

THE BILL FOR THE PREVENTION OF THE FINANCING OF THE PROLIFERATION OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

• “Bill for the Prevention of the Financing of the Proliferation of
Weapons of Mass Destruction” is the first item in the agenda of
the 24 December 2020 Plenary Session of The Grand National
Assembly of Turkey [GNAT].

• The bill was deliberated at the Justice Committee of GNAT on
16 December 2020.

• According to the Justice Committee reasoning, the bill aims to
catch up with the international standards in the fight against the
financing of terrorism and laundering offences considering the
2019 report of the Financial Action Task Force-FATF and the UN
Security Council (UNSC) resolutions.

• Despite the reasoning, only the first six articles focus on this
issue. The remaining 35 articles have no direct relation with
the general reasoning and many of them amend significant
articles of the Law of Association.

How the bill affects civil society in Turkey?

Administrative
• The bill brings several additions and amendments to 5253 “Law On Associations”. Law no. 5253 concerns civil society institutions structured as non-profit associations and foundations.

• With the new formulation, the regulation will be applicable to the representatives and branches of associations, federations, confederations, as well as Turkey offices of foreign-based organizations.

• The proposed bill makes an addition to Article 3 of Law No: 5253 and defines new limitations concerning the duties of the members of association.

• If a person is under investigation for crimes within the scope of the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism as well as other crimes related to the drug or human trafficking within the Turkish Penal Code s/he will not be able to be actively engaged in activities of the association besides participating in the general assembly.

• The bill disallows individuals who have been previously sentenced for any of the above-mentioned crimes to engaged in activities of any association besides participating in the general assembly. situation, It removes the period of limitation and the benefits of a remission of a punishment.

• The bill allows The Minister of Interior to start a process to suspend all activities of an association on grounds that a court case was filed against an individual.

The bill allows an appointee to be appointed the administration of the organization.

Financial

• Article 13 of the bill increases the regularity and authority of audit and inspection processes. The extended authority includes Turkey offices of associations based abroad. Audits currently carried out upon a complaint will become regular.

• In cases where acts defined by the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism are detected, assets of associations may be frozen with a Presidential decree.

Practical Consequences

In Turkey it is difficult to estimate the number of human rights defenders, journalist, academics etc. who are accused to be a member of a terrorist organization or making terrorism propaganda or any offences under the scope of the Anti-Terror Law.

The constitutional court and ECtHR have thousand of applications related to this article. There is no doubt that the use of this law exceeds its main purpose, and the law is used to create pressure on civil society and journalists.

The upcoming bill will greatly increase the extent of this misuse, allowing the executive branch to literally shut organizations down and freeze their funds at will.

While the bill has not passed yet, there is little hope that it will be rejected given previous experiences. The next step would naturally be a Constitutional Court application. We would hope that the Constitutional Court would act in accordance with fundamental human rights.

Please See:
Joint Statement by Human Rights Association (İHD), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD), Rights Initiative Association (HİD), Citizens Assembly (YD), Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (ESHİD), Amnesty International Turkey

Statement signed by 442 (and rising) organizations [Turkish link for the list of signatories].

This statement was prepared in collaboration with Civic Space Studies Association

The statement as pdf_ENG

‘Ideology supplants need for evidence’ in new Kavala trial

Civil society leader Kavala to remain as political hostage in prison until February 2021.

Foto: Bianet
PEN Norway’s Court Reporter Writes:

Press attention was high today at the Cağlayan Palace of Justice, Istanbul where many representatives of civil society, diplomatic missions and political parties gathered for the first hearing in a new case against imprisoned human rights defender, Osman Kavala. There were hints of a judicial reform from the government during the past month which in turn raised the expectations for Kavala’s release and possible acquittal on all charges.

The new indictment charges Kavala with “obtaining state information that needs to remain confidential for political and military espionage purposes” and “attempting to overthrow Constitutional order” with reference to the 2016 coup-attempt.

The hearing started precisely on 13:30 as planned. Due to pandemic restrictions, only a few people were allowed into the courtroom: relatives, lawyers and very few press members. Kavala, being still detained in Silivri prison, two hours from Istanbul, attended the case over SEGBIS, the judicial conferencing system.

Those members of the press, diplomats, and legal observers who were not permitted to enter the court room were let through the security gate but had to watch the proceeding through the open doors from the inner hallway, inevitably forming a crowd around the door. Those who did not have press, diplomatic or legal credentials were not allowed in through the security gate.

The hearing started with Kavala’s statement. He criticized the fact that evidence from the previous ‘Gezi’ trial had been recycled in this new case. He pointed out that the indictment failed to prove his connections to Henri Barkey and had no factual basis or concrete evidence.

“The prosecution has intentionally confounded the present activities of civil society organizations that serve to contribute to democracy with the political and ideological activities undertaken during the Cold War Era.” Kavala said. He ended his statement with these words: “I hope this indictment, which includes the most extreme examples of unfounded, non-substantiated, and illogical charges leading to our citizens’ deprivation of their freedom, will be the last one of its kind.”

 The full transcript of his statement has been published on the Free Osman Kavala Campaign website.

Witnesses and Lawyers

Kavala’s statement was followed by statements of 6 witnesses and the defense statements of Kavala’s lawyers: Murat Deha Boduroğlu, Köksal Bayraktar, Deniz Tolga Aytöre. The indictment attempted to connect Kavala and Barkey and accused Kavala of being in the same hotel with Barkey on 15 July 2016 (on the day of the coup attempt), where a meeting took place. All witnesses denied the presence of Kavala. One of the witnesses stated that Barkey knew of the coup-attempt in advance.

Kavala’s lawyers pointed out the lack of evidence in the indictment and that no witness had provided extra evidence connecting Kavala to Barkey. Kavala has been unlawfully imprisoned for 38 months. After the judge stated that Kavala “was not imprisoned for this case”, Lawyer Köksal Bayraktar reminded the decision of the European Court of Human Rights statement that identifies his imprisonment as a continuation of the original detention. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey should immediately end Kavala’s detention on December 10, 2019. This ruling has been ignored now by multiple judicial panels in their hearings.

Swift decision for continuing detention

After the statements and a 15-minute-long break, the prosecutor requested Leyla Alaton to be ready as witness for the next hearing along with other previously decided witnesses and continuation of Kavala’s imprisonment. Then, the court briefly adjourned again before ruling for the continued imprisonment of Kavala and declared that the next hearing will be held on 5 February 2021, 13:30.

While the Turkish Courts have taught us to keep hopes low on many occasions, this ruling comes as a disappointment for all of those demanding Kavala’s release. The ruling directly ignores resolutions from the European Court of Human Rights, comes despite the new political discourse concerning judicial reform, against the president’s own message on 10 December 2020, Human Rights Day stating that: We carried our country to a much higher level in the field of human rights compared to 18 years ago…”

As Sezgin Tanrıkulu (MP, human rights activist and lawyer) stated right after today’s hearing: “Osman Kavala is still detained unlawfully, despite the European Court of Human Rights resolution, and 3 resolutions from the Council of Ministers” He continues: “This case is a symbolic case concerning the judiciary reform. Despite the binding resolutions by the European Court of Human Rights, Kavala has not been released yet. So “judicial reform” means nothing unless the mentality changes first.”

 “Kavala’s situation has even gone beyond legal harassment, It has become legal torture. There isn’t enough evidence to imprison Kavala even for 1 day, let alone convicting him.” says Sinan Gökçen. (Civil Rights Defenders-Turkey, Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders)

The next hearing will take place on February 5th, 2021.

PEN Norway’s reaction to today’s decision

Despite mounting evidence that impartiality and independence of the judiciary in Turkey’s High Criminal Courts is a thing of the past, we at PEN Norway hoped again today, as we did this time last year, that human rights activist Osman Kavala would be released from his illegal detention in Silivri prison and reunited with his freedom.

Although we monitor, report and collate data on the deteriorating state of the rule of law in Turkey we still raise our hopes for justice when an innocent man becomes the subject of such a flimsy legal case.  Our hopes and those of Osman Bey’s family, legal team, and supporters worldwide that justice would finally prevail were yet again dashed by the judicial panel of Istanbul’s 36th High Criminal Court when they ruled to keep Kavala in prison today and to hold the next hearing in February 2021.

The latest outright attack on the judicial system in Turkey can be seen to have begun by the Constitutional changes of 2017 that gave power to the President and Ministry of Justice to appoint every single member of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, thus giving the executive indirect power in the appointment of every judge and prosecutor in the country.

PEN Norway has attended every hearing in the bogus cases against Kavala since 2018. For those observers who were shocked at the baseless nature of the Gezi trial and its accompanying tome of irrelevance that passed for an indictment, this new trial can only further confirm that the executive in Turkey has no intention of permitting Kavala or his new co-defendant Barkey to have a fair trial.

In a fair trial, the presentation of the utterly evidence-free indictment against Kavala and Barkey would cause a judicial panel to rule for dismissal of the case.

In our Indictment Project – Turkey 2020 we have so far reported on the standards of 8 indictments in recent cases in Turkey.  Not one of those indictments meets Turkish or international standards.  The crisis in the judiciary in Turkey is so great, that only a divorce of the executive from the judiciary and assurance to all judges that they will not be prosecuted for making judgements that may displease the President will suffice to restore faith in this crippled judicial system.  The fact that the highest levels of the executive wish to influence trials is not supposition, it can be heard in the speeches of the President on a regular basis.  Last week Erdoğan stated that he ‘did not expect’ the justice system in Turkey to sanction or support the release of opposition leader Demirtaş. It is time that the Council of Europe chastised Turkey strongly for its willful departure from the tenets of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We report in full on the new Kavala indictment on Tuesday 22, December on our website.

The report by Kevin Dent QC confirms our fears over the lack of evidence against defendants:

‘ It is noticeable that, notwithstanding the seriousness of the allegations, no serious attempt has been made in the indictment to link Osman Kavala to any activity or role in either espionage or the attempted coup. Consequently, given the lack of coherent evidence, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the indictment is a piece of political theatre rather than a legal instrument and one designed to perpetuate the detention of Osman Kavala.’
Kevin Dent, QC. Turkey v Kavala & Barkey Indictment Report.

We at PEN Norway call for an urgent investigation by Turkey’s Ministry of Justice into these pretences of trials that make little effort to convince anyone the intention of judicial panels to uphold the law. We call for the immediate release of Kavala and the dropping of all bogus charges against him.  We call for Turkey to stop wilfully violating Article 6 (Right to a Fair Trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights and to free Osman Kavala.

#FreeOsmanKavala

Hvem fortjener Ossietzkyprisen i 2020?

Alle kan foreslå kandidater til årets Ozzietzkypris som deles ut i forbindelse med markeringen av PEN Internationals Fengslede Forfatteres Dag, 15. november.

Vi ber om begrunnede forslag innen 25. august. Forslag sendes hege@norskpen.no.

Retningslinjer
Norsk PEN deler årlig ut Ossietzkyprisen for fremragende innsats for ytringsfriheten.  Prisen deles normalt ut på Fengslede Forfatteres Dag, 15. november.
Prisen deles ut til en person eller institusjon som over noe tid, eller i forbindelse med en spesiell sak eller hendelse, har gjort en særlig innsats for ytringsfriheten.  Prisvinner bør ha en tilknytning til Norge, personlig eller i forbindelse med den aktuelle saken.
Det er ingen forutsetning at prisvinner er skribent eller medlem av Norsk PEN.
Norsk PENs medlemmer er velkomne til å foreslå aktuelle kandidater. Styret beslutter prisvinner.

Prisvinnere:

2019: Afshin Ismaeli
2018: Ahmedur Rashid Chowdury, også kjent som Tutul
2017: Tormod Heier
2016: Edward Snowden
2015: Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen
2014: Sidsel Wold
2013: Sidsel Mørck
2012: Deeyah
2011: Mohammad Mostafaei
2010: Mansour Koushan
2009: Mohammed Omer
2008: Chungdak Koren og Francis Sejersted
2007: Democratic Voice of Burma
2006: Ebba Haslund
2005: Fakhra Salimi
2004: Aage Storm Borchgrevink
2003: Stavanger Kommune
2002: Elisabeth Eide
2001: Sigmund Strømme
2000: Britt Karin Larsen
1999: Wera Sæther
1998: Ketil Lund
1997: Haakon Børde
1996: Koigi wa Wamwere
1995: Johanna Schwarz
1994: Axel Jensen

Assange kan få 175 år i fengsel – hvem blir den neste?

Julian Assange må løslates fra Belmarsh fengsel.

Av Rune Ottosen, leder av Norsk PENs Varslerutvalg

Det amerikanske Justisdepartementet utvidet 24. juni tiltalen mot Julian Assange. Det er ingen nye punkter utover de 18 punktene som lå i den opprinnelige tiltalen. Det nye er at påstanden om at Assange skal ha gjort seg skyldig i lovstridig hacking konkretiseres ytterligere. Assange anklages nå blant annet for å ha prøvd å rekruttere hackere fra gruppen “Anonymous” under konferanser i Europa og Asia. Hvis man leser den nye tiltalen kommer det fram at et av punktene omfatter en konferanse i Malaysia der han oppfordret hackere til å avdekke krigsforbrytelser og brudd på menneskerettighetene. Tenk over dette: En australsk statsborger risikerer lang fengselsstraff i USA, blant annet for noe han har sagt på en konferanse i et tredje land.

Det kan være grunn til å reflektere over hvorfor disse utvidelsene kommer nå og hva de konkret innebærer. Norsk PEN mener at den pågående kampen mot utlevering av Julian Assange fra Storbritannia til USA må sees i sammenheng med en pågående kamp mot press på ytringsfriheten i global målestokk. Grunnleggeren av WikiLeaks risikerer 175 års fengsel for å ha publisert dokumentasjon om krigsforbrytelser i Irak og Afghanistan i 2010. Assanges advokat Barry Pollack sier til nyhetsbyrået AP at amerikanske myndigheters jakt på Assange utgjør en trussel mot journalister over hele verden, og mot “folkets rett til å få vite” og at den utvidete tiltalen ikke representerer noe prinsipielt nytt. Vår vurdering er at den utvidete siktelsen kan være uttrykk for at kampen for å få utlevert Assange er på defensiven og at stadig flere ser at trussel om lang fengselsstraff for Assange er en trussel mot retten til avslørende, kritisk journalistikk.

Det har gått de fleste nyhetsmedier i Norge hus forbi at Europarådets parlamentarikerforsamling 28. januar vedtok en resolusjon der det slås fast at en utlevering av Assange vil skape en farlig presedens i kampen for sikkerhet for journalister.

Medlemstatene oppfordres til å reagere og viser til en rapport fra FNs spesialrapportør mot tortur, Finn Melzer fra 1. november 2019 som konkluderer med at Assange umiddelbart må løslates. Ingjerd Schou fra Høyre og Lise Chrisophersen fra Arbeiderpartiet var til stede og stemte for resolusjonen. Forplikter ikke dette det norske Stortinget til å gripe fatt i denne alvorlige situasjonen? Dette vedtaket skjedde før rettssaken mot Assange i februar. Det vakte forbausende liten oppmerksomhet i norske medier at Assange ble behandlet på en uverdig måte. Han var plassert bakerst i lokalene i et glassbur uten mulighet til normal kommunikasjon med sine advokater. Han ble påsatt håndjern ut inn av rettslokalene og kroppsvisitert på en måte som lignet på ren trakassering. Dette vet vi fordi vi var der. Norsk PEN følger saken nøye og vil være til stede når rettssaken fortsetter i september.

Siden februar har Belmarsh-fengslet blitt hardt rammet av corona-viruset. Assange har en kronisk lungesykdom og burde vært løslatt av medisinske grunner. Frykt for coronasmitte har bidratt til at han ikke får ha normal kontakt med sine advokater og hindres i normale saksforberedelser.

Nils Melzer har anklaget svenske domstoler for å ha konspirert med britisk rettsvesen for å holde overgrepsanklagen mot Assange gående i ni år uten tiltale. Saken ble endelig henlagt i fjor høst. Hverken svenske eller norske medier har fanget opp det viktige nyhetspoenget at Melzer som FN-representant i sterke ordelag anklager svenske myndigheter for å ha fabrikkert bevis i saken mot Assange. Svenske myndigheter eneste svar er at de ikke kan blande seg inn i domstolens arbeide.

Til dette har Melzers replisert at i så fall må Sverige trekke seg fra FNs torturkonvensjon som forplikter regjeringer til å gripe inn mot tortur.  Ingen toneangivende medier har  utfordret svenske myndigheter mot de oppsiktsvekkende anklagene.. Den svenske presseveteranen og redaktøren Arne Ruth har tatt initiativ til et opprop til støtte for Assange. Han har i brev (se vedlegg) til den svenske utenriksministeren krevet at svenske myndigheter svarer på den alvorlige kritikken og han kritiserer svenske medier for selvsensur ved ikke å ha omtalt de alvorlige beskyldningene fra en FN-talsmann. Han har uttalt at det nå må press fra utlandet til for å få oppmerksomhet rundt saken i svensk offentlighet. Kanskje norske journalister kan bidra til dette presset?

I den før omtalte uttalelsen fra Europarådets parlamentarikere blir det uttrykt bekymring for varsleres vilkår i denne vanskelige tiden for pressefriheten. Norske medier har i det siste bidratt til å sette kritisk søkelys på angrepet på journalister i USA. Fysiske angrep fra amerikansk politi og verbale angrep fra president Trump er et viktig bakteppe når vi skal forstå den kritiske situasjonen som møter Assange ved en eventuell utlevering. Han blir tiltalt etter spionparagrafen i en spesialdomstol uten normale rettssikkerhetsgarantier. Bør ikke dette bekymre norske medier? Hvem blir den neste? Presidenten har gjennom sine nylige angrep og trusler mot Den internasjonale straffedomstolen og deres ansatte vist en skremmende mangel på respekt for internasjonale menneskerettigheter.

Norsk PEN mener at vi ikke kan forholde oss passive og se på at Assange blir utlevert til et land der rettsikkerheten er under press, der han risikerer en lang fengselsstraff for å ha avdekket krigsforbrytelser og menneskerettighetsbrudd. Vi håper norske medier er av samme oppfatning.

Artikkelen ble publisert på Medier24, 1. juli 2020.

En mer inkluderende samfunnsdebatt — ja, takk!

Av Nancy Herz, leder Ungdommens ytringsfrihetsråd.

Nancy Herz skal lede Ungdommens ytringsfrihetsråd. Foto: Privat

Det var tilfeldigheter som fikk meg til å sende inn mitt første innlegg til lokalavisen. Siden det første innlegget i Haugesunds Avis i 2013 har jeg skrevet flere titalls tekster i både lokale og nasjonale medier. Det å vite at noen leste og lyttet motiverte meg til å skrive mer, og det samme gjorde viten om at i andre land risikerer noen livet for å gjøre det samme.

I Norge risikerer vi ikke fengsel eller dødsstraff for å bruke stemmen vår, men det er likevel begrensninger som gjør at noen deltar i større grad enn andre. En av disse begrensningene er netthets, trusler og sjikane som gjør at unge kvier seg for å delta i samfunnsdebatten. Hvorfor er det slik? Gjennom Ungdommens ytringsfrihetsråd håper jeg å være med på å finne ut av det – og å skape en mer åpen samfunnsdebatt med plass til flere unge stemmer. Prosjektet skjer i regi av Norsk PEN og Fritt Ord, og jeg håper unge folk fra hele landet med ulike identiteter og erfaringer vil søke!

Det er nemlig ikke lenge siden jeg snakket med en engasjert venninne som fortalte meg at «jeg ville skrive noe om den saken, men orker ikke hets akkurat nå». Det er trist å høre, men det er gjenkjennelig.

Undersøkelser viser at unge deltar sjeldnere i samfunnsdebatter enn andre aldersgrupper. Rådet vil finne ut hvorfor, men jeg tror at en del av svaret ligger i frykten for hets og trusler og det faktum at det er vanskelig å komme unna på grunn av sosiale medier.

Sjikane rammer også ungdommer ulikt. Unge som er mørkere i huden enn meg, som har en annen kjønnsidentitet eller kjønnslegning enn meg eller en annen funksjonsvariasjon opplever hets og trusler på andre måter.

Samfunnsdebattant Andreas Hasle beskrev dette godt da han i 2018 skrev:

«Å delta i debatten har alltid kostet mer for noen enn for andre, men med sosiale medier blir det stadig vanskeligere å slippe unna. Det hever terskelen. Kanskje har vi tiet i hjel den neste Deeyah Khan, Amal Aden eller Lan Marie Berg allerede før de har hevet stemmen. Det har ikke Norge råd til.»

Når noen grupper ikke deltar i samfunnsdebatten overlater vi muligheten til å forme samfunnet og sette dagsorden til de få. Dette er et demokratisk problem. Mitt ønske for arbeidet med Ungdommens ytringsfrihetsråd er å skape en mer åpen samfunnsdebatt, hvor unge ikke må vurdere om de orker å bli hetset før de bruker stemmen sin. Denne åpenheten kan uttrykkes på følgende måter:

  • Åpenhet i å ikke diskreditere meningsmotstanderne sine opplevelser og å ta dem på alvor.
  • Åpenhet i språket: ikke bidra til å skape et debattklima hvor vi snakker om «oss» og «dem».
  • Åpenhet i form av å gi folk muligheten til å ombestemme seg og endre mening.
  • Åpenhet i form av å løfte frem nye stemmer.
  • Åpenhet i form av å ikke bruke hersketeknikker.

Jeg håper vi sammen i Ungdommens ytringsfrihetsråd klarer å bidra til å løfte fram unge stemmer som tidligere ikke har blitt hørt i mediene. Så håper jeg politikerne og andre samfunnsaktører vil lytte til oss og vise at de tar unge stemmer på alvor.

Jeg valgte å bruke min stemme slik at flere kan bruke sin både ute i offentligheten og på hjemmebane. Det håper jeg flere vil gjøre.

 Innlegget ble publisert i Stavanger Aftenblad 27. juni 2020.

 

Turkey: Rights groups call for urgent release of imprisoned journalists, human rights defenders and others, now at risk of Covid-19

Amid growing concerns over the spread of Covid-19 in prisons, the Turkish government is accelerating the preparation of a draft law that will reportedly release up to 100,000 prisoners. This is a welcome step. Overcrowding and unsanitary facilities already pose a serious health threat to Turkey’s prison population of nearly 300,000 prisoners and about tens of thousands of prison staff. That will only be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. However, we remain concerned that journalists,  human rights defenders and others imprisoned for simply exercising their rights, and others who should be released, will remain behind bars in the package of measures as currently conceived  by the government.

 

The undersigned organisations call on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalists,  human rights defenders and others who have been charged or convicted simply for exercising their rights.  Additionally we believe that the Turkish authorities should re-examine the cases of all prisoners in pre-trial detention with a view to releasing them. According to international human rights law and standards, there is a presumption of release pending trial, in accordance with the presumption of innocence and right to liberty. Pre-trial detention should only be used as an exceptional measure, yet it is applied routinely and punitively in Turkey. The government should also seriously consider releasing prisoners who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, such as older prisoners and those with serious medical conditions. The authorities should ensure that all prisoners have prompt access to medical attention and health care to the same standards that are available in the community, including when it comes to testing, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Prison staff and health care workers should have access to adequate information, equipment, training and support to protect themselves.

Under the current Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, prisoners are eligible for parole after they have served two thirds of their sentence. The draft law that is expected to be passed in Parliament within days reportedly makes prisoners eligible for parole after they have served half of their sentence. Under the new law, pregnant women and prisoners over 60 with documented health issues will be placed under house arrest. Individuals convicted of a small number of crimes, including on terrorism-related charges, will not be eligible for reduced sentences. The draft law does not apply to those held in pre-trial detention or whose conviction is under appeal. The measure is expected to be introduced as the third reform package under the government’s Judicial Reform Strategy revealed last summer.

In Turkey, anti-terrorism legislation is vague and widely abused in trumped up cases against journalists,  opposition political activists, lawyers, human rights defenders and others expressing dissenting opinions. As we have documented in the large number of trials we have monitored, many are held in lengthy pre-trial detention and many are convicted of terrorism-related crimes simply for expressing dissenting opinion, without evidence that they ever incited or resorted to violence, or assisted illegal organizations.

This includes high profile journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, and businessman and civil society figure Osman Kavala, in addition to many more academics, rights defenders and journalists. Demirtaş has previously reported heart-related health problems in prison, and both Altan and Kavala are over 60 years old meaning they could be at increased risk from Covid-19. These people should not be detained at all, excluding them from release would only compound the serious violations they have already suffered.

We, the undersigned, call on the government and Parliament to respect the principle of non-discrimination in the measures taken to lessen the grave health risk in prisons. The effect of the draft law is to exclude certain prisoners from release on the basis of their political views. Thousands of people are behind bars for simply exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Now they are also faced with an unprecedented risk to their health. According to its commitments under international human rights law, Turkey is under a clear obligation to take necessary measures to ensure the right to health of all prisoners without discrimination.

We invite Turkish authorities to use this opportunity to immediately release unjustly imprisoned people, and give urgent consideration to the release of those who have not been convicted of any offence and those who are at particular risk in prison from a rapidly spreading disease in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions where their health cannot be guaranteed.

Signatories

ARTICLE 19
Punto24, Platform for Independent Journalism
Amnesty International
ARTICOLO 21
Association of European Journalists (AEJ_
Cartoonists’ Rights Network International (CRNI)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Freedom House
Frontline Defenders
German PEN
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Free Expression – Turkey (IFoX)
International Press Institute (IPI)
IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
IFEX – the Global Network Defending and Promoting Free Expression
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
PEN Canada
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TSLP)
Wan-Ifra/World Association of News Publishers

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