Issue 601: Turkey releases Orhan Kemal Cengiz, but with travel ban; "UN must speak out"

UN must condemn Turkey’s illegal travel ban
against human rights advocate Orhan Kemal Cengiz

orhan neuer

Above: Orhan Kemal Cengiz, second from left, at the UN for the opening session of the
8th Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Feb. 22, 2016. In this photo, UN Watch
imagined what the world would be like if human rights heroes represented their countries.

GENEVA, July 25, 2016 — UN Watch, a Geneva based non-governmental human rights group, welcomed Turkey’s release yesterday of human rights advocate and journalist Orhan Kemal Cengiz after four days of arbitrary detention, but urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights commissioner Zeid to condemn the government of President Recep Teyyip Erodgan for imposing conditions on Mr. Cengiz that include a travel ban.

“We call on the UN Human Rights Council to exercise its duty and immediately convene an urgent session into the alarming deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey, and to create a commission of inquiry to investigate both the attempted coup and the legality of the government’s purge of tens of thousands of Turkish citizens from their jobs,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

Cengiz and his wife Sibel Hurtas, also a journalist, were detained Thursday at Istanbul airport while en route to attend a conference in London. Hurtas was released the same day, but Cengiz was detained until yesterday.
Mr. Cengiz had visited the UN Human Rights Council in February, and testified about abuses in Turkey, hosted by the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, a coalition of 25 human rights groups led by UN Watch.
UN Watch campaigned over the past four days for Mr. Cengiz’s release. “By arresting a prominent journalist, lawyer and human rights defender, the Turkish government has seriously compromised its claim to be defending democracy and the rule of law,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
“We urge Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner Zeid to condemn the illegal ban on Mr. Cengiz’s travel, which among other things would prevent him from visiting the United Nations to provide the world body with vital new information and analysis on the desperate situation of human rights in Turkey.”

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About Orhan Kemal Cengiz

  • Human Rights Defender, Lawyer, Journalist
  • Born January 13, 1968
  • Founding member of the Human Rights Agenda Association (Insan Haklari Gundemi Dernegi), established in 2003, which he chaired until 2012.
  • Cengiz also founded the Civil Society Development Center and new sections within the Izmir Bar Association, including a section dealing with torture and ill-treatment. Between 1999 and 2002 he worked as a legal adviser at the Kurdish Human Rights Project in London.
  • In 2007, he received death threats due to his professional activity in the Malatya murder case, in which three Christians were killed by men linked to ultra-nationalist organizations.
  • In 2008, thanks to an Amnesty International campaign, the state provided him with a bodyguard. Mr. Cengiz is now an independent human rights lawyer and expert.
  • Cengiz has been a prolific journalist since the Turkish government’s crackdown on the media, contributing to several newspapers, including Today’s Zaman, Radikal, Al-Monitor, Ozgur Dusunce, and Bugun. He wrote extensively on human rights related topics, from the Kurdish issue to the Armenian Genocide to the Deep State (Ergenekon) case.
  • Currently he is one of the lawyers in the “Tahir Elci” case, named for the Kurdish human rights lawyer and president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association who was killed in November 2015.
  • In February 2016, Mr. Cengiz was a speaker at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, devoting his entire speech to the memory of his beloved friend Tahir Elci.
  • He was arrested on July 21, 2016, at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport while waiting to board a flight to London, where he was supposed to participate in a conference promoted by the Tahir Elci Foundation. Mr. Cengiz was with his wife, the journalist Sibel Semira Hurtas. She was released after a few hours.
  • Mr. Cengiz was finally released on July 24.

Below: Orhan Kemal Cengiz addressing the adjacent Geneva Summit for Human Rights, February 23, 2016.
Orhan Kemal Cengiz


UN Watch