UN chief should protest Turkish arrest of journalist who addressed UN

EU commissioner: “Deeply concerned by detention of
journalist &
human rights advocate Orhan Kemal Cengiz
and his lack of access to a lawyer”

orhan at UN

Above: Orhan Kemal Cengiz at the United Nations in Geneva, February 22, 2016.

GENEVA, July 21, 2016 — UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights commissioner Zeid should do like the EU and urgently protest Turkey’s arrest today of prominent journalist and human rights defender Orhan Kemal Cengiz, which may constitute an illegal act of reprisal for his recent visit to the UN Human Rights Council to testify about human rights violations by the Turkish government, said UN Watch, a Geneva based non-governmental human rights group.
As reported in the media, Cengiz and his wife Sibel Hurtas, also a journalist, were detained today at Istanbul airport, while en route to attend a conference in London. Hurtas has since been released.
EU commissioner Johannes Hahn tweeted a statement saying that he was “deeply concerned by [the] detention of journalist & human rights advocate Orhan Kemal Cengiz and his lack of access to a lawyer.”
Mr. Cengiz visited the UN Human Rights Council in February, and testified about human rights abuses in Turkey, hosted by the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, a coalition of 25 human rights groups including UN Watch. Yesterday he was interviewed by the Washington Post.
“By arresting a peaceful journalist, lawyer and human rights defender, the Turkish government compromises 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 speak out today.”


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 is still in custody.

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


UN Watch