Turkey: Call for Protecting Human Rights Defenders against Judicial Harassment and Threats in Turkey

To date, trade union rights’ violations are still rife in Turkey. While little or no progress is being made towards achieving a legal framework which guarantees full respect for these rights, in line with EU Standards and ILO Conventions, severe limitations remain to the right to strike, and collective bargaining is still heavily obstructed. Workers are being pressured to leave their union, and interference in internal union affairs is abundant.

Meanwhile, a worrying trend of judicial union harassment is significantly on the rise, whereby trade unionists are being tried on "terrorist" charges. There is a pattern: upon being arrested, all unionists are being treated in a rough manner, or even mistreated; the authorities invoke some legal clause in order to keep the cases "under secrecy", meaning that the defense lawyers can initially not look into their clients’ files, sometimes even for more than a month; and the accusations are all related to some form of "terrorist activity".

On 19-20 November last year, in Izmir, the ITUC attended, together with over a dozen representatives from trade unions and Global Union Federations from eight different European countries, the trial against 31 leaders and members of Turkish public sector union KESK. Being tried on charges of having established a terrorist organisation, 22 of them had already spent nearly six months in prison without access to due trial. At the same time, at the Tuzla shipyards, leaders of a dockers’ union Limter-Is, which is affiliated to ITUC affiliate DISK, were receiving death threats from a company manager, because they had defended a number of workers who had been unlawfully sacked.

A 27-minute documentary film, which digs a bit deeper into Turkey’s history of trade union rights’ violations, building up to the current situation, has been produced by Protection International (PI). This film will be screened at a press conference which is being organised on Thursday 29 April at 11 a.m. at the International Trade Union House (5, Boulevard du Roi Albert II , room B 1st floor), in cooperation with the ETUC, the IFJ, AI and FIDH. It will be held in English and French.

There will be testimonies from Limter-Is representative Hakki Demiral. Erol Önderoglu, editor of the Istanbul-based information website Bianet.org, will give an update on the situation of human rights defenders and journalists. Other speakers will include:

-  Guy Ryder, general secretary of the ITUC
-  Joël Decaillon, deputy general secretary of the ETUC
-  Renate Schroeder, IFJ
-  Shane Enright, AI
-  Grégoire Théry, FIDH
-  Pascale Boosten & Eric Juzen, PI, authors of the documentary.

The ITUC represents 176 million workers in 155 countries and territories and has 312 national affiliates. http://www.youtube.com/ITUCCSI

For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.