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Rights defender wins case against Turkey

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News | 11/5/2006 12:00:00 AM |

‘This shows it is high time to think about the rights of human rights defenders,’ says lawyer

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkey violated the right to privacy of a human rights lawyer whose premises were searched and whose private professional materials were seized without the requisite authorization.

The case is interesting, according to human rights defenders, because it urges Turkey to revise practices such as frequent house and office searches and property seizure used against human rights defenders.

“This judgment casts a huge doubt on one of Turkey's routine practice of taking cases against human rights defenders and harassing them by making searches of their homes and business premises,” Orhan Kemal Cengiz, legal representative of the applicant before the European court and president of the Human Rights Agenda Association, told the Turkish Daily News.

“I believe this jurisprudence will provide human rights defenders with more protection,” he added. “This case shows that it is high time to think about the rights of human rights defenders.”

Taner Kılıç, a Turkish national who was born in 1969 and who lives in Aegean province of Izmir, is a lawyer and a board member of the Izmir branch of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER). In June 1999 the now-defunct Ankara State Security Court issued a warrant authorizing the search of the headquarters and branches of MAZLUM-DER in order to collect evidence concerning certain acts by the association, allegedly carried out against the “integrity of the country and the secular regime.”

Maintaining that the situation was urgent, the public prosecutor extended the scope of the search warrant and ordered the search of the homes and offices of the association's general director and board members.

Subsequently, when communicating the search orders issued by the State Security Court and the public prosecutor to the governors, the undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior specified that not only the homes and offices of the general director and board members should be searched but also the premises of all branch board members.

During the search of Kılıç's home, the police confiscated two videotapes and photocopied various documents taken from his office. Kılıç complained about the search and the seizure of his property.

The European court found that the search and seizures were extensive and that private professional materials were taken without special authorization. Kılıç was awarded 2,000 euros for non-pecuniary damages and 1,000 euros for costs and expenses.

“It has been confirmed with the verdict issued by an important court like the European court that this arbitrary practice against MAZLUM-DER is illegal,” Kılıç told the TDN. “I don't know what sort of an ‘evidence of crime' with regard to MAZLUM-DER the state is searching for in a drawer in my bedroom that I put my underwear in.  I also don't think those who did so know,” he added.

Kılıç described the search of his house as a dishonorable act and said those who carry out such searches on behalf of the state should bear the consequences of what they do. 

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