Europe Newsletter January 2022

Here is our latest Newsletter with updates and actions.

Stop violence against women in Turkey

amnesty international

Placard translates: Our Rights… From our souls …we don’t give up

On 22 December 2021 Amnesty International published a new briefing document setting out an analysis on the current situation regarding violence against women in Turkey, including a summary of the obligations of the State to respect, protect and fulfil women’s right to be free from violence. Entitled “Turkey, Turn Words Into Actions” it provides an overview of the incredible pressure that women are under in Turkey and sets out the government’s obligations to protect women’s human rights based on a review of Turkish legislation, the recommendations by UN treaty bodies, the Council of Europe, and other relevant international organisations, as well as consultations with women’s rights organisations in Turkey.

Please do have look at the full document which can be accessed through the link shown below:

Osman Kavala

amnesty international

On Monday 17 January a Turkish court extended the detention of a civil society leader, Osman Kavala ignoring a deadline from Europe’s top human rights body to release him.

Osman Kavala,  64-year-old businessman and philanthropist, has been held without a conviction since October 2017 for allegedly financing the Gezi Park 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016. But an İstanbul court on Monday turned down a motion from Kavala’s defence for his release, scheduling a new hearing for Feb. 21.

Turkish authorities now have until 2 February before the Council of Europe will serve formal notice of its intention to refer Turkey back to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for infringement proceedings.

In its last Human Rights meeting in early December, the Committee of Ministers (CM) of the Council of Europe voted on majority to initiate infringement proceedings against Turkey and gave the authorities until 19 January 2022 to provide a report about Osman Kavala’s imprisonment until this Wednesday to release him from pre-trial detention in line with the December 2019 Kavala v Turkey decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

In the absence of the implementation of the decision, the CM is expected to send the non-implementation of the binding Kavala decision back to the ECtHR at its next meeting on 2 February 2022. It is only the second time since the introduction of the infringement procedure in 2010 that a country is being referred back to the Court for non-implementation of its decisions.

The refusal to release Kavala in line with the ECtHR ruling and nine decisions of the CM since May 2020, and the start of the infringement proceedings indicates a very serious deterioration in of the Human Rights situation in Turkey. The case is undoubtedly souring Turkey’s ties with its traditional Western allies. Please follow the link below for a local report on case:

Ersen Keskin

amnesty internationalYou will recall that Eren Keskin is a prominent human rights defender, lawyer and the vice-president of the Turkish Human Rights Association. She is also the founder of Gözaltında Cinsel Taciz ve Tecavüze Karşı Hukuki Yardım Bürosu (Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody) in Turkey.

Since 1995 she has been arrested, imprisoned and the object of over 100 lawsuits for her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights and Amnesty International has supported her throughout this period.

On 15 February 2021, the Istanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court sentenced her to six years and three months for “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” in the Özgür Gündem newspaper “Main Trial”. She is currently appealing this sentence.

There are no current actions requested but we will circulate new ones when they are available.

For further background on this case the following is useful link:


amnesty international

This longstanding case  involves Taner Kılıç ( lawyer and former Chair of Amnesty International Turkey), and three other Human Rights Defenders; İdil Eser(former Director of Amnesty International Turkey) Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun.

The case was originally brought against 11 Human Rights Defenders including these four and several other members of Amnesty International Turkey, in 2017. Like many other activists in the country, they faced baseless ‘terrorism-related’ charges simply for carrying out their human rights work and the case sent shockwaves around the world at the time.

In July 2020, only the four defendants, Taner Kılıç İdil Eser, Özlem Dalkıran and Günal Kurşun, were convicted on terrorism-related charges, in the absence of any evidence of criminal acts and despite the fact that allegations against them had repeatedly been disproven in the course of the trial. The case has now reached the final stage of appeal and a decision has been expected from the Court of Cassation for many months.

If the convictions of any of the Büyükada Four are upheld, this would represent a further miscarriage of justice and deal yet another blow to open society in Turkey.

AI is requesting that we do not undertake any public actions on this case at the moment. However if you would like to send solidarity letters to Taner they should be directed to Amnesty Turkey (see address below) with a request that they be passed on to him

Amnesty International Turkey,  Hacimimi Mah. Kemeralti Cad. Adahan No:31 Floor:2 PK:34425 Karaköy-Beyoğlu/Istanbul

Saturday Mothers

On 25 March 2021, the first hearing took place in the trial of 46 people charged with ‘refusal to disperse despite warning and use of force’ under Article 32/1 of Turkey’s Law on Meetings and Demonstrations (Law No. 2911) during the 700th weekly vigil of the Saturday Mothers on 25 August 2018. The police used excessive force including water cannons and tear gas to disperse a large, peaceful crowd, which had gathered for the vigil in Istanbul and detained the 46 individuals now on trial. If found guilty, they face a sentence of between six months and three years in prison.

The 46 individuals include human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and relatives of victims of enforced disappearances. The baseless prosecution of these individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in defence of human rights is only the most recent government action in a relentless crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders and those who peacefully express their dissent in Turkey.

We are waiting for information regarding further hearings and will be in touch when that is available and new campaigning actions proposed

Poland Great News! Acquittal upheld!

Thank you for all your campaigning on behalf of Elzbieta, Anna and Joanna!

Poland: After acquitting rainbow halo women, authorities must end their witch-hunt against activists

Responding to the dismissal of the appeal against the acquittal of three women human rights activists in Poland on absurd charges of “offending religious beliefs” for distributing posters of the Virgin Mary with a halo in the rainbow colours of the LGBTI pride flag, Catrinel Motoc, Senior Campaigner in Amnesty International’s Europe Regional Office said:

“Today’s decision comes as a huge relief but cannot disguise the fact that these three women should never have been put on trial in the first place. Distributing posters of the Virgin Mary wearing a rainbow halo should never be criminalized, so it is right that the appeal against their acquittal was rejected.

“Since the start of the case against them, more than a quarter of a million people have spoken out to demand that the authorities drop the charges in a case that has come to symbolise some of Poland’s most disturbing anti-human rights trends. Not only is space for free expression, activism and peaceful protest shrinking, but the climate of homophobia in the country is worsening amid an increase in hate crimes, the introduction of LGBTI free zones by local councils and attempts to ban Pride Marches.

“This case has also revealed an ugly seam of state-sponsored homophobia and exposed the way in which Poland’s criminal justice system is being used to target, intimidate and harass human rights defenders simply because of their activism. The Polish authorities must finally end their witch-hunt against these and other activists.”

Poland #StopRefugeeFamiliesFreezing

International Day of Action 15th January 2022

Across the UK in London, Manchester, Brighton, Newcastle, Carlisle, Worcester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cornwall as well as in Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Poland, Amnesty Activists and supporters were holding vigils and protests outside Polish Embassies, Consulates and Public Spaces to call for an end to the suffering of refugees and migrants trapped in the freezing forests at the border between Belarus and Poland.

Jeremy Corbyn MP as well as Sacha Deshmukh, director of Amnesty UK were speaking at the vigil outside the Embassy in London as well as Polish activists, a representative from Jewish Socialists and others. Most moving was the talk by one of the volunteers in Poland who dodge border guards and soldiers to bring food into the forests for the refugees stranded there.

A huge thank you to all the groups who participated! I received an email from the volunteers who are bringing food to refugees thanking us telling me how important this action was for them and asking to keep campaigning.

Amnesty International

Vigil in London outside Embassy of Poland

Find more photos at #StopRefugeesFreezing

Why did we demonstrate?

A shocking humanitarian crisis at the borders of the EU and Belarus is continuing to cause immense suffering to asylum seekers and other migrants, including families with small children, and has led to the death of at least 10 people. Thousands of people -including many fleeing war and conflict-are trapped in the swampy forests along the borders of Belarus and Poland, freezing in sub-zero temperatures, hungry, thirsty and suffering violent pushbacks from both Belarussian soldiers and Polish border guards.

People at the border find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Stranded in what is effectively an exclusion zone they face hunger, freezing temperatures and shocking levels of brutality from Belarussian forces as well as violent pushbacks from Polish forces, including forcing people to cross a fast flowing river.

Among them are pregnant women, families with small children, and people who are elderly and injured. Many have fled war and persecution in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq. In the absence of safe and legal routes they felt they had no other alternatives to reach safety.

Under EU and International law, everyone seeking asylum at the borders has the right to make an asylum application, which must be processed and considered individually.

NGO’s and Humanitarian organisations must be allowed to reach and deliver life-saving aid to those trapped between the borders.    End the suffering !

We are calling for asylum seekers and migrants trapped at the border to be evacuated to EU countries where their protection needs should be fairly assessed.

Please write personal letters to the Embassy of Poland:

His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the UK

Mr Arkady Rzegocki

47 Portland Place, London W1B1JH

Italy: health and care workers face reprisals for speaking out during Covid

Together with Amnesty Germany country coordinators we are preparing a new podcast about essential workers in Europe during Covid-19.

Podcast episodes will be available in February on:

Instagram/Facebook: amnesty_eaac

Health and care workers in Italy who raised concerns about poor and unsafe working conditions in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic were subjected to unfair disciplinary proceedings and feared retribution from their employers, new research from Amnesty International has found (Link for the report).

Instead of addressing their health and safety concerns over issues such as the use of personal protective equipment and the true number of Covid cases in care homes, employers silenced these workers, often through unfair dismissal, and targeted them with anti-union measures.

One third of the people interviewed by Amnesty International during this research reported a climate of fear and retaliation in the workplace. The lawyers reported over ten cases of disciplinary proceedings and dismissals, also involving trade union representatives who had denounced the lack of adequate health and safety measures in various residential structures, both public and private.

The urgency of an independent investigation

The Italian authorities must ensure that the voices of these workers are heard. Amnesty International therefore calls on the parliament to set up an independent commission of inquiry which focuses in particular on the situation of residential facilities (please sign the petition here).

Currently, various proposals for investigation are under consideration to investigate different aspects of the health emergency, including the congruity of the epidemic management measures, the ways in which it spread and the effectiveness of the system of residential structures. However, to date, no commission has yet been established. This commission should also consider the serious concerns raised by staff and trade unions regarding safety, health and precarious working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the preceding period.