Feb 28 2018

Turkey’s crumbling rule of law a global issue – Human rights lawyer

The destruction of the rule of law in Turkey is clearly evident in the trial of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), wrote Stephen Knight, a human rights lawyer who visited Turkey to monitor the trial.

Demirtaş was arrested alongside the party’s other co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, in November 2016, and has been held in pre-trial detention since then on a range of charges for which the prosecution seeks a 142-year jail sentence.

Yet the charges are politically motivated and in some cases patently absurd, according to the human rights lawyer's article for the Independent. “Allegations include that he founded a terrorist organisation, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a group which fought for years for Kurdish autonomy within Turkey,” wrote Knight. “Yet the group was established when Demirtaş was just five years old.”

Knight goes on to list a range of harsh practices by the authorities holding Demirtaş, including the contravention of Turkish and international law by barring foreign observers from attending his trial, and intimidation of his supporters in the court.

On a broader level, the HDP has been subject to a campaign of intimidation that includes harrassment by state officials and violent attacks by unknown assailants, wrote the lawyer.

According to Knight, these oppressive practices faced by the HDP are symptomatic of a broader breakdown of Turkey’s rule of law, that has seen opposition politicians jailed and judges fired at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s whim, and security forces “turn a blind eye to those who attack the AKP (ruling Justice and Development Party)’s political opponents.”

“It is time for the world to wake up to the destruction of the rule of law in Turkey,” wrote Knight, calling on international actors to stand by “those who seek to defend it."