The Turkey Tribunal, a not-for-profit human rights organization registered in Belgium, on Monday began a tribunal on the human rights violations committed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government in Turkey.
The four-day tribunal in Geneva is set to address violations that include torture, forced disappearances, abductions from foreign countries, freedom of press and expression, among others, with accounts from 15 witnesses.
Turkey has been suffering heightened major rights violations in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt against the government of Erdoğan. Some 80,000 people were jailed and over 150,000 dismissed from their state jobs over vaguely defined, broad anti-terror charges, or coup-plotting charges.
Since the failed putsch, Turkish authorities have continued the practice of ”detaining, prosecuting, and convicting on bogus and overbroad terrorism and other charges,’’ government critics, according to a 2020 Turkey report by Human Rights Watch, which accuses the Erdoğan government of ”authoritarian rule’’ through rushed legislation contradicting international human rights obligations.
Founded by the Belgium-based Van Steenbrugge Advocaten (VSA) law firm, which has handled many cases for Turkish citizens in international courts, the Turkey Tribunal’s judges include Françoise Barones Tulkens, former judge and vice president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and John Pace, the former secretary to the Commission on Human Rights.
The first day of the Tribunal addressed Turkey’s record of torture and abduction, with legal expert and the Turkey Tribunal’s rapporteur on enforced disappearances, Johan Heymans, and Turkish human rights expert Eren Keskin, among others, giving detailed presentations on the matter.
The Turkey Tribunal is the first initiative of its kind and garners interest by bringing together different segment of Turkish society that have been targeted by Ankara following the failed putsch, including Kurds, members of the Gülen movement and the Turkish press, judiciary and academia.
The tribunals ruling, which is not legally binding, are set to be announced on September 24.
Depending on the verdict, the tribunal is expected to apply to the International Criminal Court (ICC).