International organisations submit expert opinion ahead of Saturday Mothers trial

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales (BHRC) and ARTICLE 19 submitted an expert opinion in the case of Saturday Mothers ahead of the third hearing today.

The third hearing of the trial against the Saturday Mothers will be heard today at Istanbul 21st Penal Court of First Instance in Çağlayan. The defendants face between six months to three years of detention for their involvement in a peaceful protest on 25 August 2018 that followed the banning of the 700th week of action by the Saturday Mothers.

The ban of the action was based on the grounds of “national security”, and justified by the lack of notification from the organisers to the authorities 48 hours prior to the vigil. Yet, on the morning of 25 August, around 50 people gathered at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul to carry out another week of protest. Law enforcement urged the crowd to disperse and used excessive measures against the participants, including tear gas, rubber bullets and physical violence, and the persons who refused to disperse were arrested and detained. According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, 12 of the protesters sustained injuries. 

In October 2020, 46 people were charged with “participating, unarmed, in an unlawful meeting and refusing to disperse despite being warned to do so”. 

BHRC and ARTICLE 19 prepared an expert opinion on the compliance of the charges against the defendants with international and European law and standards on the right to protest. BHRC and ARTICLE 19 outline serious concerns regarding the various and disproportionate interferences with the defendants’ right to engage in a peaceful assembly that was likely to be motivated by a desire to suppress the message of their protest. In such a case, these interferences contradict both Articles 11 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

BHRC and ARTICLE 19 submitted the legal expert opinion to “once again emphasise that freedom of expression and assembly are inherent components of any democracy and enable civil society to thrive. We will continue to closely monitor the developments in this case.”

The submission can be read here.