The Conference of International NGOs of the Council of Europe was appalled to learn about the detention of a group of Turkish Human Rights defenders on 5 July. These people represent organisations which are members or partners of the Conference of INGOs. This incident comes shortly after the arrest and detention of Mr Taner Kılıç, President of Amnesty International Turkey.
I am very concerned about the situation of human rights defenders under the State of Emergency, which has been in place since the traumatic failed attempted coup 15 July 2016. European institutions have expressed the expectation that all measures taken under the State of Emergency should respect the rule of law and the principal of proportionality. However, civil society is currently trying to carry out their ordinary activities in a climate of pressure and fear. When NGOs decide to downplay or cease their human rights advocacy, even withdrawing from their international umbrella organisations out of fear of persecution, then the freedom of association is under threat.
During my recent intervention, I asked the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to examine closely the situation of human rights defenders in Turkey and to monitor the conditions of detention of the President of AI and the others. I also informed them of my decision, while our members and partners are detained, to suspend the planned visit of the Conference of INGOs. I will continue to follow the developments in relation to freedom of association and the situation of leaders and members of NGOs in Turkey very closely.