Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project

We are launching a legal campaign called the Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project to have prominent abusers of human rights in Turkey placed on the United Kingdom’s sanction list.  This will be a springboard for similar submission in the United States and the European Union. 

Since 2016, there has been a relentless campaign of arrests which has targeted lawyers across Turkey and has also affected all levels of Turkish society.  

In 77 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, lawyers, Presidents of Bar Associations, and even judges who refused to act on the Government’s direction have been detained and arrested on trumped-up charges as part of criminal investigations conducted by provincial public prosecutors (See).  Those also imprisoned for long periods after politically motivated prosecutions are activists, journalists, and academics.  

The individuals who have been subject to arbitrary detention include civil society leader Osman Kavala, the President and the Director of Amnesty International in Turkey Taner Kılıç and İdil Eser, lawyers Fevzi Kayacan and Turan Canpolat, author and journalists Ahmet Altan, Aysenur Parıldak, and Mustafa Ünal, academics Prof. Mümtazer Türköne and Prof. Sedat Laçiner,  and art director Fevzi Yazıcı amongst many others.  

The Turkish authorities and prosecutors hold a huge amount of power to determine who is kept imprisoned and for how long.  This power is largely unchecked by Turkey’s legal system which often acts at their whim. The Turkish courts routinely ignore the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the UN, particularly, those ordering the release of certain detainees.  

Many of those who have been detained have been subject to torture, solitary confinement, denial of health services and access to counsel, and some have died in custody. Some judges and prosecutors have even been extorting money from those held in custody in return for their release. 

The UN and Council of Europe bodies, national and international NGOs, and Bar Associations around the world have published credible reports on these human rights violations by Turkish officials. The Turkish government has offered its officials, such as the prosecutors who send innocent lawyers and others to prison for lengthy sentences in squalid condition, effective immunity. This has meant that it is impossible to bring human rights abusers to justice within Turkey or to challenge their actions.   

We think this all needs to stop. 

We are fundraising to seek accountability for those responsible for these political prosecutions and detentions which are causing great damage to individuals, their families, and Turkish society.  

The first step in this process is to push for the sanctioning of those responsible under the United Kingdom’s new Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations.  To this end, we intend to instruct two top English human rights barristers to: 

 ​i) advise on which human rights violators we should be seeking to be added to the sanctions list; 
ii) engage in political lobbying to draw attention to the harm caused by those involved in arbitrary detentions in Turkey; 
iii) draft detailed submissions for the individuals identified to be sanctioned; and  
iv) seek to engage with officials of the UK Government to press the case for sanctions. 

We believe that this work is important to counter the impunity enjoyed by those involved in the unlawful imprisonments and draw international attention to this problem.   

The funding will also pay for all other expenses relating to the campaign including publicity, hosting events to support the campaign,  and any necessary travel. 

Any funds remaining after the above work is undertaken will be put towards exploring other sanction options as well as other ways to hold those responsible to account using domestic and international legal mechanisms. 

To make donations click the campaign pagehttps://www.gofundme.com/f/sanction-turkish-officials-for-mass-imprisonment

Press Release: https://arrestedlawyers.org/2020/09/28/press-release-launch-of-turkey-human-rights-accountability-project/

UPDATE – 26.12.2020

UPDATE 28.12.2020

Michael Polak, one of the Project counsels, gives a brief update on our progress

UPDATE 22.01.2021

In a Turkey Tribunal webinar: The State of Impunity in Turkey Today, Michael Polak, one of the Project counsels, made a presentation on UK Human Rights Sanction Law and our project.

Michael Polak, one of the Project counsels, made a presentation on UK Human Rights Sanction Law and our project.

The Global Magnitsky Laws: How they can protect human rights defenders, including lawyers

The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the Italian Federation for Human Rights, Italian National Bar Association and Justice Abroad arranged a conference bringing together international experts, human rights defenders, lawyers, and practitioners to discuss the impact of Magnitsky Laws and their potential to protect human rights defenders across the world by comparing and contrasting different national legislations and various case studies. Presentation of Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project was also made in the conference.

Moderated by: Owen Bowcott, former The Guardian journalist


  • Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, IBAHRI Director,
  • Bill Browder, Head of Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign,
  • Amanda Strayer, Associate Attorney for Human Rights Accountability at Human Rights First,
  • Dr. Kerem Altıparmak, Deputy Chair of Human Rights Association of Turkey,
  • Kevin Dent QC, Barrister in the United Kingdom, author of human rights reports on the Gezi Park trial of 16 leading members of Turkish civic society groups,
  • Michael Polak, Barrister in the United Kingdom, Chair of Lawyers for Uyghur Rights,
  • Eleonora Mongelli, Vice Chair of FIDU / Italian Helsinki Committee,
  • Francesco Caia, Italian National Bar Association Human Rights Committee.

UPDATE 18.05.2021

Within the scope of the Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project, the submission for sanction, which is the main goal of the project, was made as of May 18, 2021. The submission covers three torture incidents between 2016-2019 and is supported by strong evidence.

Within the scope of the project, an international conference, three training programs for young lawyers and law students and a documentary have so far been organised.

In the ongoing phase, we have started to work on a similar application to be lodged in the USA.

Regarding the next phase, we have already started working on a similar submission which will be made in the US.


UPDATE  – 11.06.2021



UPDATE  – 02.09.2022

Within the scope of the Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project, the sanction submission for the United Kingdom, the main target of the project, was made as of 17 May 2021.

We are pleased to announce that the second phase of the project, the United States sanctions submission, has been submitted as of September 2022.

The submissions were prepared by a panel of American, British and Turkish lawyers, and cover incidents of torture and are supported by strong evidence. Advocacy activities in support of the submission are programmed.

The United States sanctions submission was made by TALI and a US-based respected human rights NGO.

Within the scope of the project, a report and a documentary were published about the systematic torture case in Şanlıurfa province in May 2019, and the report and documentary were added to the application file as evidence.

UPDATE  – June 2023

Dear Supporter of the Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project,

Within the scope of the Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project, the sanction submission for the United Kingdom, the main target of the project, was made on 17 May 2021.

In September 2022, we announced that the United States sanction application, the second leg of the project, had been made.

As of today, we are pleased to announce that a similar sanctions application has been filed in Canada.

The application, prepared by a panel of British, Canadian and Turkish lawyers, covers torture cases and is supported by strong evidence.

In order to support the application with advocacy activities, a panel discussion will be held on 26 June 2023, the Day of Solidarity with Victims of Torture, hosted by Baroness Kennedy, Member of the House of Lords, at the British Parliament.

Parliamentary panel on targeted human rights sanctions with a focus on Turkey

On Monday 26th June 2023, as a part of Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project, the Arrested Lawyers Initiative organised an event in collaboration with IBAHRIREDRESS and Human Rights Solidarity which was hosted by Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws in the UK Parliament.


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