Turkey: KESK Executive Board Acquitted but Anti-Union Repression Continues

Unfounded criminal charges against the entire 7-member Executive Board of ITUC Turkish affiliate KESK were thrown out by the 4th High Criminal Court in Ankara on 3 March in a decision which confirms that calling for peace cannot be considered a crime under Turkish law.

In a January 2018 press statement, the KESK Board called for peace and warned about the impact of the Turkish army’s incursion into Afrin, Syria, in particular on Kurdish people, and criticised the diversion of vital resources away from urgent social and economic needs in Turkey itself.

“We are glad to see justice prevail. Nobody should face criminal charges for calling for peace. The lawsuits filed against the KESK leadership are part of a structured effort to intimidate all forms of social and political opposition. The global trade union movement stands for peace, against terrorism and for the settlement of disputes through dialogue and negotiation in keeping with the rule of law, and stresses that all parties should resolve their differences through peaceful means. The use of armed force, in particular against civilians, especially women and children, is an affront to humanity. Unions everywhere will continue to demand decent work, democracy and peace,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Representatives from the ITUC and public sector unions in the Netherlands and Sweden attended the hearing as observers.

In another case, scheduled for hearing on 9 March, Arzu Çerkezoglu the President of ITUC-affiliated DISK trade union centre, is facing criminal charges with a possible prison term for her criticisms of Turkey’s ruling party AKP in June 2016. A number of other trade unionists are still facing charges.

“Turkey remains one of the most hostile countries for trade unionists in the world, and we call on the Erdogan government to cease the repression against unions and others in the country simply for exercising their legitimate rights, and to withdraw all the unfounded charges and sentences which have been handed down,” said Burrow.