Trial Monitoring Mission: Tahir Elçi Case
30 november 2023

Trial Monitoring Mission: Tahir Elçi Case

Türkiye

On Monday 27 November 2023, representatives of Lawyers for Lawyers joined an international delegation in Türkiye to monitor the trial of the suspects in the murder of Tahir Elçi, a prominent human rights lawyer and the former chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association. An estimated two hundred persons were present at the hearing, including lawyers from various regions of Türkiye and international observers. The latter group consisted of lawyers from the Netherlands, France, Italy and the UK.

Since his murder on 28 November 2015, the investigation into Mr Elçi’s murder has been surrounded by controversy. The investigation was only initiated in February 2019, following a technical report published by the London-based group Forensic Architecture, which identified the three police officers actively involved in the shooting. Despite Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s reassurances and the fact that four investigators had been assigned to the case, no independent and effective investigation followed. Amongst other things, evidence was inadequately collected, and the police, who were ostensibly involved in the death of Tahir Elçi, conducted the inquiry themselves. The investigation into Mr Elçi’s death is emblematic of the politicization and backsliding of the rule of law in Türkiye.

The Hearing on 29 November

The current case around Tahir Elçi’s killing deals with the criminal liability of four suspects: three police officers and an alleged member of the militant branch of the PKK militant.

The hearing opened at 10.00 a.m. and first addressed the Technical Report prepared by Forensic Architecture. This report identified, among other things, gaps of 13 and 17 seconds in the CCTV footage from two cameras at the crime scene, at the time of Tahir Elçi’s death. The Court subsequently dealt with various motions and requests submitted by the defence. These motions and requests pertained to the hearing of potential witnesses, a request to investigate threats against Tahir Elçi on social media and a re-examination of the CCTV footage. The prosecutor demanded the Court to reject all requests. After an adjournment of two hours, the Court answered the prosecutor’s demands and dismissed all motions. The Court concluded that the CCTV footage of the two cameras in question had not been tampered with and argued that hearing the requested witnesses would not reveal anything new.

Later, the President of the Turkish National Bar Association and 18 Presidents and representatives of local bar associations gave their views on the importance of fair trial and respecting the rule of law. Following the hearing, a press conference was held outside the Court House, organised by the Diyarbakır Bar Association.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 6 March 2024. Lawyers of Lawyers deplores the lack of investigative efforts thus far and will continue to monitor the case of Tahir Elçi.

Commemoration and Panel Discussion

A day before the trial, the death of Tahir Elçi was commemorated for the seventh time in the presence of several hundreds of people, including lawyers from all over Türkiye and international observers. Under close supervision of the police and accompanied by media, the group held a procession from the Court to the place where Tahir Elçi died. There, a commemoration event took place with various speakers and music.
Later in the afternoon, the Tahir Elçi Foundation organised a panel discussion. The lawyers and human rights defenders present were addressed by Orhan Kamal Cengiz, the Foundation’s president; Ramiz Erinç Sağkan, the President of the National Turkish Bar Association; Nahit Eren, the President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association; Philip Leach, a human rights lawyer (UK) and professor in human rights at the University of Middlesex. Irma van den Berg, President of Lawyers for Lawyers, spoke on behalf of Lawyers for Lawyers.

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