We Remember Halabja!

We Remember Halabja!

31 years ago today, we witnessed a heinous crime against Kurds in Halabja, where more than 4000 humans, most of them children, women and elderly people lost their lives.

This massacre is the worst-ever gas attack targeting civilians in the recent history.

We strongly condemn this grotesque crime against humanity and the Kurdish Nation, who suffered throughout history this kind of atrocities perpetrated by States. The International Community, unfortunately to late and with the lack of dignity this crime should have been addressed, tried to bring into justice this crime.

Thus, we have seen that this kind of atrocities can only be stopped, if the most developed States actively prevent the export of equipment’s, elements and substances to rogue Nations, Autocrats and Dictatorships, which can also be used in developing WMD`s (Weapon of Mass Destruciton).

Our hearth and prayers are with the victims of Halabja. We convey our condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives as well as to the Kurdish people and Iraq.

Human Rights Defenders e.V.

Our hearth and prayers are with the victims in New Zealand!

The heinous attack on two Mosques in New Zealand, where 40 innocent people died and many injured pains us with deep sorrow.

We strongly condemn these barbaric and grotesque attacks on peacefully praying Moslems. No one should have to fear such violence in their place of worship.

We welcome the statements made by the Government of New Zealand to conduct swift investigations to this terrorist act, perpetrated with Islamaphobic motivation.

We convey our condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives as well as to the people of New Zealand.

International women’s day 2019: More than 17.000 innocent women in Turkish prisons

Turkey has developed into an “open-air prison”: more than 17,000 women were illegally arrested after the alleged coup attempt of 15 July 2016 and are exposed to inhuman prison conditions.

Some of these women are pregnant, about to give birth, or are placed in overcrowded prisons with their babies and children.

Torture, sexual abuse, poor access to health care, ignoring visitor rights, no educational opportunities for children and much more are becoming more common.

“The International Women’s Day is the most important rally for women’s suffrage, which can record the history of the movement for the emancipation of the women to this day.” Clara Zetkin, 1911


Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. The main demands of the founders of Women’s Day are now fulfilled, at least in Europe. Nevertheless, much remains to be done in matters of women’s rights. Equal opportunities in working life, equal pay for equal work, improving the situation of migrant women, combating violence against women and against forced prostitution or trafficking of women are some of the issues that we need to address vigorously.

In countries in which the rule of law is endangered and democratic values ​​are not anchored in the respective society, there is a great need for action. One of these countries is Turkey, where women are wronged. Fundamental rights and freedoms, the rule of law and democracy have largely been suspended in Turkey since the declaration of the state of emergency in July 2016. The termination of the state of emergency has not changed anything since the regulations of this state continues to apply.

Turkey has developed into an “open-air prison”: more than 17,000 women were illegally arrested after the alleged coup attempt of 15 July 2016 and are exposed to inhuman prison conditions. Some of these women are pregnant, about to give birth, or are placed in overcrowded prisons with their babies and children. Torture, sexual abuse, poor access to health care, ignoring visitor rights, no educational opportunities for children and much more are becoming more common. This approach is both a violation of universally recognized ethical principles, as well as a violation of international conventions, to which Turkey is legally obliged to comply.

We call on all women’s rights activists, NGOs and the European Parliament to take action against this practice by the Turkish government to stop the witch hunt against innocent women. In addition, international organizations should have the opportunity to identify, investigate, and help to stop the massive human rights abuses in Turkey and bring to account those who violate the applicable law.

Köln, 8th March 2019

Human Rights Defenders e.V.

Interview with the legal expert Yasir Gökçe on the current judgment of the court of cassation on ByLock

As the team of the ‘Human rights defenders (HRDs)’, we asked for Yasir Gökçe’s opinion on the current developments in judicial arena in regards to Bylock. Mr. Gökçe is a legal expert who has extensive experience and knowledge on IT law, data protection and cyber security. He published several articles and reports in various peer-reviewed journals on the legality of the use of Bylock in a court of law. He conducted research and obtained a master’s degree in Harvard University. Currently, he furthers his legal studies in the Bucerius Law School.

As might be known, the 16th Chamber of the Turkish Court of Cassation pronounced on 27.03.2018 a significant judgment on how the use of the Bylock must be established beyond any doubt by the first instance courts. The Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation lodged a motion of opposition against the High Court’s decision before the General Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation. It remains to be seen whether the highest criminal court in Turkey would uphold the decision or not.

As the team of the ‘Human rights defenders (HRDs)’, we asked for Yasir Gökçe’s opinion on the current developments in judicial arena in regards to Bylock. Mr. Gökçe is a legal expert who has extensive experience and knowledge on IT law, data protection and cyber security. He published several articles and reports in various peer-reviewed journals on the legality of the use of Bylock in a court of law. He conducted research and obtained a master’s degree in Harvard University. Currently, he furthers his legal studies in the Bucerius Law School.  

Mr. Gökçe, for those who are not familiar with the Bylock investigations, would you briefly explain what the Bylock is as well as its significance for the Turkish judiciary?

Sure. Firstly, Bylock is a secure communication app.  Turkish authorities believe that it was exclusively allocated for the members of the Gülen Movement. The current regime in Turkey declared the said group as a terrorist organization. The assumption that Bylock was merely used by the followers of the Gülen Movement is a convenient one for the regime. Thereby, the regime in Turkey can easily link anyone who allegedly use the Bylock app to the said group and convict him/her of terrorism charges.

In short, any finding which indicates that the defendant might have used Bylock is a sufficient evidence for the Turkish regime to arrest him/her for one or two years and eventually sentence the defendant to the imprisonment of 6 years and 3 month at the minimum.  

In the light of these bitter facts, what significance does the current decision of the court of cassation bear?

At the outset, I am of the opinion that the court of cassation in Turkey did not render the aforementioned decision out of the concern for the rule of law. Reports produced by the esteemed human rights organizations indicate the poor level of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Turkey. I would like to elaborate on various considerations underlying this sort of judicial decisions more later on.   

The current decision of the high court is of particular importance, because the decision seeks a certain quality of the evidence linking the individual with the Bylock app. According to the decision, in order to establish that an individual used the Bylock beyond any doubt, (1) there must be a Bylock report produced by MİT exclusively for the defendant, which includes information such as User ID, password etc., (2) there must be a table of log data gathered from the internet service provider of the individual in question, and lastly (3) these two records (the Bylock report and the log data table) must fully match.

In its former decision dated 24.04.2017, the 16th Chamber of the Court of Cassation (the same high court) ruled that the use of Bylock has to be established beyond any doubt using technical methods. In this decision which represents the first precedence of the Court of Cassation on Bylock, the high court has summarily confirmed the evidentiary value of Bylock in a court of law, refraining from inquiring how the Bylock metadata was gathered by MİT. The current decision still do not address the fundamental problematic aspect of the use of Bylock before a court of law: The illegality of the way the Bylock data was gathered. In an era when the Europe enacted the General Data Protection Law and bestowed the EU citizens upon very breakthrough rights related to their personal data, it appears that the Turkish authorities arbitrarily and illegally retrieved dozens of terabytes of personal metadata belonging to the Turkish citizens.

To sum up, while the first decision of the Court of Cassation puts forward the principle that the phenomenon of the use of Bylock must be proved beyond any doubt, the new decision elaborates how this phenomenon must be established by the judiciary.

What is the practical significance of the current decision? How do you think it will impact the first instance courts?

It generally takes a long time until the first instance courts internalize and implement the high courts’ decisions. Therefore, the responsibility to remind them of the new precedence falls on the lawyers/litigators.

As you know, there are thousands of victims in Turkey who are being held in jail on the basis of, borrowing the term from my article, “the Bylock fallacy.” They are either arrested or convicted on the mere ground that they used the Bylock app. The alleged use of a messaging app is literally sufficient to be convicted as a “terrorist” in today’s Turkey. Against this backdrop, to be honest, I don’t mind how or why the detained victims in Turkey are released as long as they are freed somehow, whether through a repentance law or by way of high court decisions setting forth stricter conditions. But, under the current circumstances, I regret to say that they won’t be released under an impartial and independent judicial atmosphere.

That said, I believe the first instance courts, namely peace judges and high criminal courts, would release the detainees at the earliest convenience, giving deference to the current decision.

Why do you think it takes less time, compared to their previous performance, for the first instance courts to adopt the new decision?  

Here, I would like to highlight the considerations underpinning the current decision or the likes. As far as I am concerned, the Turkish judiciary, bureaucracy and significant portion of the public are well-aware that thousands of detainees are not “terrorists” as the regime and court rulings suggest and that they are put behind bars for no reason at all. This fact generates enormous victimization which greatly hurts what is left of public conscience and translates itself into pressure directed at the Erdogan regime. As is the case for any authoritarian country, the Erdogan regime feels compelled to allow the public some breathing space and to let them blow off the steam, which otherwise would likely cause social implosions.

I believe these concerns might have forced the regime into releasing a portion of the “captives” while giving the rest the hope to be “liberated” soon. I believe that the current decisions are rendered under the instruction and direction of the regime. For instance, the Assembly of the Criminal Chambers of the Court of Cassation recognized Bylock as a lawful evidence right after the Turkish Justice Minister’s following announcement; “The Supreme Court of Appeals’ Assembly of Criminal Chambers will now finalize an appellate review [of ByLock].” 

I am putting myself into the shoes of a Turkish judge: As a judge, I would be terribly intimidated and threatened by the dismissals and subsequent arrest of 4500 judges and prosecutors. Applying the decades-long well-established principles of Turkish case-law with related to terrorism charges, I would believe deep inside that the defendants could never be arrested or convicted relying on the findings at hand, namely “Bylock, bank account, high school, newspaper subscription etc.” There is the salient example of Hakan Atilla who was convicted by a US justice for being accomplice to the Erdogan regime’s crimes. Moved by all these factors and the court of cassation, I would have adopted the decision in a prompt manner and release the Bylock victims.

Thank you for sharing your valuable comments Mr. Gökçe. Can we have your last remarks? 

As a last remark, I want to stress the following fact: MIT have reduced the number of people who downloaded Bylock from over 1 million, to 215 thousand, then to 102 thousand, and then to 91 thousand. This mere fact indicates how unreliable Bylock is as an evidence. But, Turkish judiciary insists on ignoring the aforementioned fact. Additionally, as we discuss the unreliability of the method MİT resorted to in detecting the real Bylock users, there is a danger of justifying the detention of the real users of the messaging app. In other words, the mere fact that an individual indeed downloaded or used a messaging app cannot be taken as an evidence sufficient for his/her detention or conviction of terrorism charges. In that context, the correspondence held in the Bylock metadata must be given regard. However, the Erdogan regime has so far failed to made public any correspondence of criminal nature.                  

UN Special Rapporteur calls on Turkey to guarantee a fair process for Judge Murat Arslan

Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayàn called the authorities in Turkey to guarantee a fair appeals process for award-winning senior Judge Murat Arslan, who has been convicted in violation of due process and judicial guarantees.

Special Rapporteur further mentioned the unjust case of Murat Arslan, a former Chair of the Association of Judges and Prosecutors, has been in jail since his arrest on 18 October 2016.

“The conviction of Judge Arslan constitutes a severe and gross attack on the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, and in a democratic state under the rule of law an independent and impartial judiciary is a fundamental guarantee for society as a whole,” said the UN human rights expert.

For the press release of the OHCHR (link).

Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on electronic evidence in civil and administrative proceedings

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 January 2019,
at the 1335th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

The Committee of Ministers,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between the member States, in particular by promoting the adoption of common rules in legal matters;

Considering the necessity of providing practical guidance for the handling of electronic evidence in civil and administrative proceedings to courts and other competent authorities with adjudicative functions; professionals, including legal practitioners; and parties to proceedings;

Considering that these guidelines seek to provide a common framework rather than a harmonisation of the national legislation of the member States;

Considering the need to respect the diversity in the legal systems of the member States;

Acknowledging the progress made in the member States towards the digitisation of their justice systems;

Noting, nonetheless, obstacles to the effective management of electronic evidence within justice systems, such as the lack of common standards and the diversity and complexity of evidence-taking procedures;

Highlighting the need to facilitate the use of electronic evidence within legal systems and in court practices;

Recognising the need for member States to examine current deficiencies in the use of electronic evidence and to identify the areas where electronic evidence principles and practices could be introduced or improved;

Noting that the aim of these guidelines is to provide practical solutions to the existing deficiencies in law and practice,

Adopts the following guidelines to serve as a practical tool for the member States, to assist them in adapting the operation of their judicial and other dispute-resolution mechanisms to address issues arising in relation to electronic evidence in civil and administrative proceedings, and invites them to disseminate these guidelines widely with a view to their implementation by those responsible for, or otherwise handling, electronic evidence.

Purpose and scope

The guidelines deal with:

–                    oral evidence taken by a remote link;

–                    use of electronic evidence;

–                    collection, seizure and transmission of evidence;

–                    relevance;

–                    reliability;

–                    storage and preservation;

–                    archiving;

–                    awareness-raising, review, training and education.

The guidelines are not to be interpreted as prescribing a specific probative value for certain types of electronic evidence and are to be applied only insofar as they are not in conflict with national legislation.

The guidelines aim to facilitate the use and management of electronic evidence within legal systems and in court practices.


For the purposes of these guidelines:

Electronic evidence

“Electronic evidence” means any evidence derived from data contained in or produced by any device, the functioning of which depends on a software program or data stored on or transmitted over a computer system or network.


“Metadata” refers to electronic information about other electronic data, which may reveal the identification, origin or history of the evidence, as well as relevant dates and times.

Trust service

“Trust service” means an electronic service which consists of:

a.     the creation, verification and validation of electronic signatures, electronic seals or electronic time stamps, electronic registered delivery services and certificates related to those services; or

b.     the creation, verification and validation of certificates for website authentication; or

c.     the preservation of electronic signatures, seals or certificates related to those services.


The term “court” includes any competent authority with adjudicative functions in the performance of which it handles electronic evidence.

Fundamental principles

It is for courts to decide on the potential probative value of electronic evidence in accordance with national law.

Electronic evidence should be evaluated in the same way as other types of evidence, in particular regarding its admissibility, authenticity, accuracy and integrity.

The treatment of electronic evidence should not be disadvantageous to the parties or give unfair advantage to one of them.


Oral evidence taken by remote link

1.            Oral evidence can be taken remotely, using technical devices, if the nature of the evidence so permits.

2.            When deciding whether oral evidence can be taken remotely, the courts should consider, in particular, the following factors:

–           the significance of the evidence;

–           the status of the person giving evidence;

–           the security and integrity of the video link through which the evidence is to be transmitted;

–           costs and difficulties of bringing the relevant person to court.

3.            When taking evidence remotely, it is necessary to ensure that:

a.    the transmission of the oral evidence can be seen and heard by those involved in the proceedings and by members of the public where the proceedings are held in public; and

b.    the person being heard from a remote location is able to see and hear the proceedings to the extent necessary to ensure that they are conducted fairly and effectively.

4.            The procedure and technologies applied to the taking of evidence from a remote location should not compromise the admissibility of such evidence and the ability of the court to establish the identity of the persons concerned.

5.            Irrespective of whether evidence is transmitted via a private or a public connection, the quality of the videoconference should be ensured and the video signal encrypted to protect against interception.

Use of electronic evidence

6.            Courts should not refuse electronic evidence and should not deny its legal effect only because it is collected and/or submitted in an electronic form.

7.            In principle, courts should not deny the legal effect of electronic evidence only because it lacks an advanced, qualified or similarly secured electronic signature.

8.            Courts should be aware of the probative value of metadata and of the potential consequences of not using it.

9.            Parties should be permitted to submit electronic evidence in its original electronic format, without the need to supply printouts.

Collection, seizure and transmission

10.          Electronic evidence should be collected in an appropriate and secure manner, and submitted to the courts using reliable services, such as trust services.

11.          Having regard to the higher risk of the potential destruction or loss of electronic evidence compared to non-electronic evidence, member States should establish procedures for the secure seizure and collection of electronic evidence.

12.          Courts should be aware of the specific issues that arise when dealing with the seizure and collection of electronic evidence abroad, including in cross-border cases.

13.          Courts should co-operate in the cross-border taking of evidence. The court receiving the request should inform the requesting court of all the conditions, including restrictions, under which evidence can be taken by the requested court.

14.          Electronic evidence should be collected, structured and managed in a manner that facilitates its transmission to other courts, in particular to an appellate court.

15.          Transmission of electronic evidence by electronic means should be encouraged and facilitated in order to improve efficiency in court proceedings.

16.          Systems and devices used for transmitting electronic evidence should be capable of maintaining its integrity.


17.          Courts should engage in the active management of electronic evidence in order, in particular, to avoid excessive or speculative provision of, or demand for, electronic evidence.

18.          Courts may require the analysis of electronic evidence by experts, especially when complex evidentiary issues are raised or where manipulation of electronic evidence is alleged. Courts should decide whether such persons have sufficient expertise in the matter.


19.          As regards reliability, courts should consider all relevant factors concerning the source and authenticity of the electronic evidence.

20.          Courts should be aware of the value of trust services in establishing the reliability of electronic evidence.

21.          As far as a national legal system permits, and subject to the court’s discretion, electronic data should be accepted as evidence unless the authenticity of such data is challenged by one of the parties.

22.          As far as a national legal system permits, and subject to the court’s discretion, the reliability of the electronic data should be presumed, provided that the identity of the signatory can be validated and the integrity of the data secured, unless and until there are reasonable doubts to the contrary.

23.          Where applicable law provides special protection for categories of vulnerable persons that law should have precedence over these guidelines.

24.          As far as a national legal system so provides, where a public authority transmits electronic evidence independently of the parties, such evidence is conclusive as to its content, unless and until proved to the contrary.

Storage and preservation

25.          Electronic evidence should be stored in a manner that preserves readability, accessibility, integrity, authenticity, reliability and, where applicable, confidentiality and privacy.

26.          Electronic evidence should be stored with standardised metadata so that the context of its creation is clear.

27.          The readability and accessibility of stored electronic evidence should be guaranteed over time, taking into account the evolution of information technology.


28.          Courts should archive electronic evidence in accordance with national law. Electronic archives should meet all safety requirements and guarantee the integrity, authenticity, confidentiality and quality of the data as well as respect for privacy.

29.          The archiving of electronic evidence should be carried out by qualified specialists.

30.          Data should be migrated to new storage media when necessary in order to preserve accessibility to electronic evidence.

Awareness-raising, review, training and education

31.          Member States should promote awareness of the benefits and value of electronic evidence in civil and administrative proceedings.

32.          Member States should keep technical standards related to electronic evidence under review.

33.          All professionals dealing with electronic evidence should have access to the necessary interdisciplinary training on how to handle such evidence.

34.          Judges and legal practitioners should be aware of the evolution of information technologies which may affect the availability and value of electronic evidence.

35.          Legal education should include modules on electronic evidence.

– https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/committee-of-ministers-adopts-guidelines-on-electronic-evidence-in-civil-and-administrative-proceedin-1

– https://search.coe.int/cm/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680902e0c

HRD has issued a new Report on Bylock which is used as a tool by Erdogan Regime to incriminate people

ByLock is not an application that is used in the so-called coup attempt on 15th July 2016 as the Erdogan Regime and the media claims. Because this application was closed five months before the coup attempt, in March 2016.

How did a digital communication application, become a material of for the Erdogan regime the justification for arresting more than 60 thousand people in Turkey?

President Erdogan, who claimed to have learned the so-called coup attempt on 15th July 2016 (15/7) from his brother-in-law during the attempt, declared the supporters of Gülen movement as the perpetrators of the coup, whom he considered being responsible for the 17th /25th December 2013 Corruption and Bribery operations.

The “Erdogan Regime” dismissed approximately four thousand judges and prosecutors of their duties on 17th July 2016, right afterwards of the coup attempt, with the claim of being coup plotters and arrested many of them in order to establish his own judicial system.

Later on, he had thousands of people arrested. Among them journalists, teachers, doctors, lawyers and businessmen. The common characteristic of these people was being opposed to the Erdogan Regime.

Those arrests are generally justified by reasons such as writing critical columns, depositing money to a legal bank, sending their children to the schools allegedly having ties to Gülen movement and being members to legal unions and foundations.

Erdogan and his judiciary, who knew that these claims are not enough to justify the arrests, needed a new excuse to strengthen the claims why they have arrested the opposition.

Within this need, they made the perception that the “ByLock” application have been used in 15th of July Coup Attempt only by Gülen supporters. They made people believe that the ByLock application is classified, incognito and only known by the members of Hizmet Movement, installed differently to the devices and encrypted.

After they made this perception accepted by the society, the lists of names which were prepared by  unknown people in unknown dates from the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), which has no authority and function as a law enforcement agency, were sent to the units of judiciary and then accepted as concrete evidence for the alleged crimes of being a member to a terrorist organization by judiciary without questioning.

ByLock application is not an application that is used in the so-called coup attempt as the Erdogan Regime and the media claims. Because this application was closed five months before the coup attempt, in March 2016.

ByLock application was not an application that only had been used by Hizmet Movement members secretly, because it was an application that was downloaded more than 600.000 times from Google Play Store and App Store worldwide. The Bylock application, which is presented as an enigmatic, encrypted application was even simpler than the applications such as WhatsApp, Viber, Line and Tango.

But as a result of this perception, approximately 17.000 women along with their 668 babies were arrested in Turkey with the accusations of using ByLock. The number of total arrests is around 60 thousand and it is increasing. The members of judiciary who questioned this process with suspicion are either expelled or dismissed from their duties. Therefore, it was seen as a necessity to prepare this Report, aiming to show that all the announcements and procedure of judiciary and National Intelligence Agency, under the control of the Erdogan Regime, regarding ByLock are in fact to create a groundless perception.

World Justice Project’s research team has issued Rule of Law Index 2017- 2018

The WJP Rule of Law Index measures rule of law adherence in 113 countries and jurisdictions worldwide based on more than 110,000 household and 3,000 expert surveys. Featuring primary data, the WJP Rule of Law Index measures countries’ rule of law performance across eight factors: Constraints on Government Powers, Absence of Corruption, Open Government, Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Enforcement, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice.

Download report (PDF) or
Explore the interactive data 

“The Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey” has drafted a letter about Turkey

“The Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey” has drafted a letter about Turkey

On the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2018, the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey , composed of the four major European associations of judges ( The Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ) , The European Association of Judges , Judges for Judges and The “Magistrats Europeens pour la Democratie et les Libertes” (MEDEL) drafted a letter about Turkey ,inviting all governmental leaders and parliaments to support Turkey to re-install the rule of law and to follow its obligation to respect fundamental human rights.

Read with source: https://www.iaj-uim.org/news/human-rights-day-2018-letter-of-the-platform-for-an-independent-judiciary-in-turkey/

‘Kidnapping on behalf of Erdogan- The Abducted’

The regime of Turkish president Erdoğan is kidnapping dozens of members of the Gülen movement from around the world. Victims are now raising a serious accusation: secret torture sites are part of the repression. A team of nine media organizations from eight countries, coordinated by CORRECTIV, investigates.

CORRECTIV – Germany:

LE MONDE – France:

FRONTAL 21 / ZDF – Germany:



TT – Sweden:

HAARETZ – Israel:



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