Turkey must ensure fair appeal for Judge Murat Arslan after gross attack on judicial independence, says UN expert
06 February 2019
GENEVA (6 February 2019) – The authorities in Turkey must guarantee a fair appeals process for award-winning senior Judge Murat Arslan, who has been convicted in violation of due process and judicial guarantees, says the UN Special Rapporteur for the independence of judges and lawyers Diego Garcia-Sayán.
“The conviction of Judge Arslan constitutes a severe and gross attack on the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, and in a democratic state under the rule of law an independent and impartial judiciary is a fundamental guarantee for society as a whole,” said the UN human rights expert.
Murat Arslan, a former Chair of the Association of Judges and Prosecutors, has been in jail since his arrest on 18 October 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by a court in Ankara after he was convicted of being a member of the so-called Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), which the Government of Turkey says was behind the attempted coup earlier that year.
Information received from several sources by the Special Rapporteur suggests that attacks and threats against members of the judiciary and lawyers, as well as interference in their work, have dramatically increased and turned systematic over the past months.
“I remain gravely concerned at the adverse effects that the measures implemented by the Government of Turkey have had, and continue to have, on the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of targeted individuals as well as on the independence of the judiciary and the free exercise of the legal profession,” Mr. Garcia-Sayán added.
“We have received information suggesting that the legal process against Mr. Arslan was not transparent and did not satisfy the criteria for judicial proceedings designed to safeguard the legal rights of the individual,” he said.
“The proceedings against Judge Arslan could have an adverse effect on the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, since other judges may be deterred from exercising their judicial independence and freedom of expression for fear of being subject to disciplinary or criminal proceedings,” the expert added.
Mr. Arslan, who was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize in 2017 for his outstanding civil society contribution in defence of human rights, has had a long-standing career as a judge. He became, along with hundreds of other Turkish judges, one of the main targets of the repression unleashed by the Government of Turkey after the failed coup.
“The allegedly politically-motivated criminal proceedings against Judge Arslan have resulted in serious violations of guarantees set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and could also be regarded as an inappropriate interference with, and an act of reprisal for, the legitimate exercise of the profession of a judge,” said Mr. Garcia-Sayán.
The Special Rapporteur also stressed that concerns over the dismissal, arrest, arbitrary detention and conviction of judges, prosecutors and lawyers had been expressed in a large number of communications addressed to the Government of Turkey, both alone and together with other mandate holders, since the failed coup of 15 July 2016 and the consequent enactment of the state of emergency.
Mr. Diego García-Sayán (Peru) was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers in December 2016. Mr. García-Sayán was formerly a judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for two consecutive terms. During his tenure, he was elected Vice-President of the Court (2008-2009) and President of the Court for two consecutive terms (2009-2013). He has long-standing experience working on human rights issues in a variety of settings, including for the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
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.