The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment and upcoming trial hearing of Ms Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş, a lawyer, women’s rights defender and board member of the Rosa Women’s Association (Rosa Kadın Derneği). Rosa Women’s Association is a civil society organisation focusing on violence against women and women’s rights in Diyarbakır and overall South-Eastern region in Turkey. The Association has supported more than 160 women who survived from violence.
On December 22, 2022, the eighth hearing in the ongoing trial of Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş on the charge of “membership to an armed terrorist organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code) will be held before the Diyarbakır 8th Heavy Penal Court. If convicted, Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş could face up to 10 years of imprisonment.
The case against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş began in May 2020, when Diyarbakır prosecution authorities launched investigations into members of Rosa Women’s Association. The authorities then divided individual cases per person and the investigation against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş initiated in August 2020.
According to the indictment drawn up by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the charges relate to the allegation that Rosa Women’s Association would praise and defend the activities and principles of the Kurdistan Labour Party (PKK), which would make members and board members of the Association members of an armed terrorist organisation.
Apart from the general allegations against the association, the indictment against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş presents only one anonymous witness statement as the basis of her alleged “membership to an armed terrorist organisation”. This anonymous statement alleges that, as an attorney, Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş regularly visits women prisoners convicted for terrorism-related charges, financially assists them, and provides them communication with the PKK and the outer world. Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş denied these allegations, explaining that the aim of Rosa Women’s Association is to advocate to put an end to violence against women, and that she did not carry any prison visit in the last three years nor is familiar with any of the women prisoners the anonymous witness mentioned. So far, Diyarbakır 8th Heavy Penal Court did not inquire into the allegations and defences of the parties.
On September 22, 2022, during the latest hearing on Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş’s case, the presiding judge of the Diyarbakır 8th Heavy Penal Court ordered every interview, press releases, public event, and all sorts of public activities organised by the Rosa Women’s Association to be added to the case file, since the defendant is a board member of the association. Although this expansion of the allegations in the indictment constitutes an infringement of the criminal procedure and due process, the presiding judge overruled the procedural objections of the defence against this decision.
The Observatory recalls that starting from May 2020, as part of a crackdown on women’s rights defenders in Diyarbakır, a great number of women have faced police raids, arbitrary arrests and detention, as well as trumped-up criminal investigations and prosecutions. Various lawful and legitimate activities of the association, including women’s marches, protests, interviews and press releases were alleged to be terrorist activities. Raids and waves of arrests took place notably in May 2020, July 2020 and April 2021 within the scope of investigations against activities of the Rosa Women’s Association and Free Women’s Movement (Tevgera Jinen Azad – TJA). These investigations resulted in the detention and conviction of several women’s rights defenders under various spurious charges, including under Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation which is systematically abused to judicially harass human rights defenders, journalists, dissidents, and opposition politicians, particularly HDP members.
The Observatory condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş on trumped-up charges, which seems to be only aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory urges the authorities in Turkey to drop all the charges against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against her and all human rights defenders in Turkey.
The Observatory more generally calls on the authorities to ensure that all human rights organisations and human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment, and to guarantee the rights to freedom of assembly and association in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the Turkish authorities, asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş, Rosa Women’s Association members, as well as all women’s and human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally drop all the charges against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş and guarantee her rights to due process and fair trial during the judicial proceedings in her case;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Elif Tirenç İpek Ulaş, Rosa Women’s Association members, and all other women’s and human rights defenders in Turkey, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Email: email@example.com
- Minister of Justice, Mr. Bekir Bozdağ. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambassador Mr. Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.