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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 10 Drop charges against students and academic
UA 144/19
Abgeschlossen am 10. Dezember 2019
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12.11.2019: Latest news

Just a quick message to share that the first hearing took place today. Nothing major happened; the students and the academic gave their statements and their lawyers requested their immediate acquittal. There will be a further review of the videos from the day by an expert. The team will be able to provide additional details and update the UA if needed, once they are able to analyse the written decision and after consulting with the students and academic.

The next hearing has been scheduled for 12 March 2020.

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Drop charges against students and academic

AI-Index: EUR 44/1322/2019

Eighteen students and one academic from Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara who are facing criminal charges for allegedly joining an LGBTI Pride Parade on the University’s campus on 10 May. The trial will start on 12 November. Some of them have stated that they did not participate in the parade and were just bystanders. No one should be prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and charges against them must be dropped.

Additional information

On 18 November 2017, Ankara Governorate indefinitely banned all public events in Ankara by making use of extraordinary powers afforded to it under the state of emergency in place at the time in Turkey. The governorate based its decision on vague grounds including the risk that such events may incite «hostility,» or «draw a negative reaction from certain parts of the society due to certain social sensitivities.» Following the end of the State of Emergency rule in July 2018, a new decision for a similar ban was taken by the Ankara Governorate on 3 October 2018.

Ankara based LGBTI+ organizations Kaos GL Association and Pink Life separately filed a legal challenge on the grounds that the indefinite blanket ban taken under the State of Emergency rule violates the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association. The ban was finally lifted by a regional administrative court decision on 19 April 2019 that found the ban to be unconstitutional even under State of Emergency law. However, METU management relied on the second ban decision by Ankara Governorate dated 3 October 2018, leading to the police intervention at the METU pride parade on 10 May 2019. There is a legal challenge brought about by Kaos GL Association against the second ban by the Ankara Governate, currently pending in administrative court.

Hypothetical risks cannot establish legitimate grounds for prohibiting a peaceful assembly. The principles of necessity and proportionality require consideration of all relevant circumstances, the impact on the legitimate concern protected and the possibility that the risk will concretize, and whether less restrictive means would suffice. The responsibility to maintain public order and to facilitate the enjoyment of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly lies with the state and its organs, including its law enforcement agencies.

The 18 METU students and the academic have been charged under the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations (No. 2911). This law has frequently been used to hinder the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly in Turkey due to its restrictive nature and its arbitrary application.

States have a positive obligation to facilitate peaceful assemblies in law and in practice. As is the case in Turkish law, the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is not subject to permission of government authorities; this right is also protected under international law and standards in conventions Turkey is a party to. Any decision to disperse an assembly should be taken only as a last resort and carefully in line with the principles of necessity and proportionality.

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