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Turkey: UN rights expert condemns killing of Tahir Elçi and calls for thorough, independent and transparent investigation

GENEVA (1 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto, today condemned in the strongest terms the recent killing of human rights lawyer and head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association Tahir Elçi, and called for a full independent investigation.

“I urge the authorities to carry out a thorough, independent and transparent investigation and bring those responsible to justice, in full compliance with Turkey’s international human rights obligations,” Ms. Pinto said while acknowledging that Turkish officials have publicly expressed determination in shedding light on what happened.

“I am also concerned about the ‘chilling effect’ Mr. Elçi’s death may have on lawyers, their independence, and the exercise of their right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that “as one of the three main actors of an independent justice system, lawyers have an essential role to play in protecting human rights, in particular due process and fair trial guarantees, and ultimately contribute greatly to ensuring respect for the rule of law and democracy.”

“Governments have an obligation to guarantee that lawyers can work without intimidation and risk to their lives and security and that of their families,” the expert stated, recalling the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers*. “The Turkish authorities must guarantee adequate protection to all lawyers whose security is at risk,” she concluded.

The independent expert is in contact with the Turkish authorities to clarify the situation.

Ms. Pinto’s statement is endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns.

(*) Check the Basic Principles: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/RoleOfLawyers.aspx

Ms. Mónica Pinto took up her functions as UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on 1 August 2015. Ms. Pinto is a professor of international law and human rights law at the Law School of the University of Buenos Aires, where she is currently the Dean. She has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations. She has also appeared as legal counsel and/or expert before different human rights bodies, arbitral tribunals and the International Court of Justice. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Judiciary/Pages/IDPIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/IndependenceJudiciary.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Amanda Flores (+41 22 917 9186 / aflores@ohchr.org) or write to srindependencejl@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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