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5 May 2023    

The Observatory learns with concern about the situation of Kurdish-Turkish lawyer Kurtulus Bastimar, who is currently in Montenegro after fleeing Turkey following persecution by the Turkish authorities.   

Kurtulus Bastimar is a Kurdish lawyer, human rights defender and activist for the rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. As an activist, he has denounced in his books the human rights violations in Crimea (Education, War and Exile), then those of women and children in the eastern and south-eastern provinces of Turkey where child marriage is common practice (Nazlıcan). His latest book, A Farewell to Freedom, banned from publication in Turkey, deals with the military coup of the 1980s which led to numerous abuses against the Kurdish community as well as the banning of the language and highlights the violations of prisoners’ rights.   

As a lawyer, Kurtulus Bastimar has defended journalists accused of anti-government propaganda (Pham Doan Trang and Le Huu Min Tuan in Vietnam), arbitrarily detained government opponents (Maria Kalesnikova in Belarus and Mukadder Alakus in Turkey) and other activists (Mohamad Ismail in Pakistan and Anas Al Mustafa in Turkey).   

As a result of his defence of Turkish opponents and activists as well as his support for the Kurdish cause, Kurtulus Bastimar testifies that he was the victim of persecution from 2019 to 2022, as well as numerous illegal night searches in June 2022, at the homes of his brother and father.    

Because of his defence of Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasibe Shamsaei, he was also the target of a defamatory campaign by Iranian spies in Turkey, for which a complaint was filed. Moreover, after his speech on 31 March 2022 at the Turkish parliament’s headquarters on human rights violations in Turkey, he was the target of even stronger attacks.  

Kurtuluş Baştimar left Turkey for Montenegro on 16 July 2022. Two days later, on 18 July 2022, his brother, Gençay Baştimar, was arrested for membership of a terrorist organisation. Gençay is the first person defended by Kurtuluş Baştimar before the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR 3592/2019 against Turkey).

The Observaotry reminds the Turkish authorities that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):  

“Lawyers shall not be assimilated to their clients or to the cause of their clients as a result of the exercise of their functions” (Principle 18).  

“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without hindrance, intimidation, harassment or undue interference; (b) are able to travel and consult with their clients freely, both within and outside the country; and (c) are not subject to, or threatened with, prosecution or economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with their recognized professional obligations, standards and ethics” (Principle 16). 

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the threats made against lawyer Kurtulus Bastimar on social networks and the lack of any criminal punishment of the perpetrators.   

The Observatory is concerned about the current situation of colleague Kurtulus Bastimar and the difficulties he faces in obtaining international protection.