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The United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals ordered on 31st of January, 2017 to the Turkish Government “to cease all legal proceedings against Judge Aydin Sefa Akay and to take all necessary measures to ensure his release from detention, no later than 14 February 2017, so that he can resume his judicial functions in the case of Prosecutor v. Augustin Ngirabatware.”
Previously, on 9th of November, Theodore Meron, President of the UN’s Mechanism for International Tribunals, called on Turkey to free Judge Akay, underlining that detention of Judge Akay has paralyzed an appeals hearing in Rwanda Genocide.
As is known, Judge Akay, who had served as the Ambassador of Turkey to Burkina Faso before being appointed as a Judge to UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, was arrested on 21st of September, 2016, despite having diplomatic immunity, on charges of using social media apps. Having anything to do with said apps is, in the eyes of the government, tantamount to being a secret Gulenist.
Whether or not the Turkish Government will abide by the ruling of the Mechanism that are binding on member states pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010), is yet to be seen.
While deeply admiring the ruling of the Mechanism, it would be fair to add that this grim picture is not only about Judge Akay. Unfortunately, after the attempted coup of last year, the government has locked up some 45 thousand people on similar flimsy grounds and more than 120 thousand others lost their jobs. The government officials, journalists, academics, judges, prosecutors, members of constitutional court and other high courts, actors, football referees, singers etc. have fallen victim to this massive-scale purge.
Probably this circumstance is the rationale behind the Turkish government’s motive in unheeding the repeated calls of the Justice Meron to release Judge Akay. Apparently, this is a tough decision for the Turkish government as the release of Justice Akay may have wider implications by undermining the equation in the mind of the government since there are tens of thousands others who are under arrest on the same ground.
The cabinet decrees that dismiss the government officials also designate them publicly as terrorists and deprive them forever of any benefit that the government positions have provided so far. This unequivocally means that the government sealed their doom through an irrevocable legislative instrument and subjected them to civil death. Strangely enough, right at the inception of the coup attempt, all ruling party officials, President Erdogan himself being the first and foremost, pinned the blame on the Gulen movement in unison. However it is still questionable how he learned the affiliations of the coup plotters while the attempt is still ongoing. Actually he did not have any clue about the identities of the putschists. But as soon as he understood that the coup attempt was going to fail, he started blaming the Gulen movement in a move to cleanse state cadres from its followers along with the wider opposition.
Hence the very next day, he dubbed the coup attempt as “the gift from the God” and put into practice the purge that he had long before been contemplating, most probably based on the personal profiles kept by the intelligence service and partisans of the ruling party.
As a matter of fact, the purge itself had started long before the coup attempt. The dismissal of all members of the Court of Cassation and State Council in June 2016 is a case in point. Only those who were found “vetted” were allowed to resume their duties at high courts afterwards.
The Turkish Government not only did breach the diplomatic immunity of Judge Akay, but also grossly violated the most basic rights of others whom it arrested unlawfully including almost three thousand judges and prosecutors.
Like the rest of government positions, the judicial posts thus vacated were haphazardly refilled with the ruling party partisans with limited or no experience or training. Corollary to this the judiciary is turned into Erdogan’s scourge on opponents with no respect even to the most fundamental human rights.
Likewise the state bureaucracy’s governing capacity, counter-terrorism being at the top of the list, is reduced to a large extend. No wonder why Turkey has become an easy prey to the terrorist attacks nowadays.
It goes without saying that the ruling of the Mechanism provides some relief to the victims of the Erdogan regime’s repression. However, more needed to be said and done particularly on the part of international instructions such as European Court of Human Rights and Council of Europe whose mandates center on human rights and the rule of law. They owe this not only to the victims of this pogrom but also to the posterity.