Turkey is using a vague counterterrorism law to prosecute many activists, lawyers and journalists, often holding them for long pre-trial periods without access to a lawyer, United Nations human rights experts said yesterday.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee said after reviewing Turkey’s record for the first time that the right to due process is sharply curbed under its 1991 Anti-Terrorism Law and that some of its provisions are incompatible with international law.
“We’re worried about the vagueness of the definition of the terrorist act in the 1991 law and the very far-reaching, unacceptable restrictions on the right of due process for accused people and the high number of cases in which human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and even children are charged under the anti-terrorism law,” Michael O’Flaherty, committee vice-chairman, told a news briefing.
He added: “Not for terrorism, but for the free expression of their opinions and ideas, in particular in the context of non-violent discussion of the Kurdish issue.” The U.N. committee, composed of 18 independent experts, examined the records of five countries, including Turkey, in upholding fundamental civil and political rights.
During the debate, they voiced concern about Turkey’s anti-terror law’s restriction of access to a lawyer for the first 24 hours when they said the risk of torture was the highest. The experts urged Turkey to bring its laws into line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a landmark U.N. pact ratified by 147 states including Turkey.