Europe Newsletter March 2023

There is a special International Women’s day action featuring Eren Keskin, fearless human rights defender from Türkiye. Please take action on International Women’s day Wednesday 8th March.

Human Rights in Europe are under threatened and under attack, particularly the human rights of those who are fleeing war and persecution and hoping to claim their universal human right to asylum. The latest shocker from our government are the plans to suspend the right to asylum altogether.  I am currently taking part in discussions with the International Secretariat and other European Sections about coordinated action against the human rights violations at Fortress Europe’s borders and will keep you posted.

In the mean-time I want to inform you of the actions organized by other organizations: Care for Calais, Trade Unions and others. On 18th of March in to date 12 countries including the UK, people will be marching against racism and for the rights of refugees. Find out more at #WorldAgainstRacism and at the end of this Newsletter.


Response to Earthquake

Everyone will be aware of the dreadful series of earthquakes that struck south west Türkiye and Syria in early February killing in excess of 50,000 people, injuring far more and creating hundreds of thousands of displaced, homeless persons.

Amnesty International has expressed its deepest sympathies to all those affected by the earthquakes and acknowledges the tireless efforts of volunteers and first responders in search and rescue operations in such difficult circumstances.

Türkiye has invoked a state of emergency in the affected provinces. Aid provision in Syria has been slowed down and obstructed by political considerations and logistical difficulties that have eclipsed the need for an urgent and immediate response to people’s needs in the northwest.

In times of such crises, human rights must not be suspended and there must be concerted efforts towards the promotion and protection of the human rights of everyone. In acknowledgement of this, Amnesty has published: TÜRKİYE/SYRIA: A HUMAN RIGHTS RESPONSE TO THE 6 FEBRUARY EARTHQUAKES

Buyukada hearing

As I informed you in a previous newsletter, the hearing at the first instance court in the Buyukada prosecution following the overturning of the convictions of Taner Kılıç, former Chair of Amnesty’s Turkey section, Idil Eser former Director of Amnesty Turkey, Günal Kurşun and Özlem Dalkıran is set to take place on 8 March.

You will recall that in November 2022 the Court of Cassation ruled to overturn the convictions for ‘aiding a terrorist organization’ for Idil, Ozlem and Gunal on grounds of lack of evidence, whilst Taner’s conviction for ‘membership of a terrorist organization’ was overturned on grounds of ‘incomplete investigation’.

In December, the first instance court requested that additional investigation be carried out and the date of the hearing be set for 8 March, indicating that the court will agree with the Court of Cassation ruling – though we will not know if this is the case until the hearing takes place. Since then, some responses were received and added to the case file online. The latest correspondence is from the Ministry of Justice, sharing the European Court of Human Rights ruling in Taner’s application, informing the trial court of its conclusions finding Taner’s rights to liberty and security and freedom of expression had been violated. In other words, helpfully, the Ministry is drawing the attention of the court to a binding decision, informing them that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is monitoring the implementation of the judgment. On the face of it, this is a positive step.

It is possible that the hearing will end with a decision to uphold the Court of Cassation decision or as is within their power, to resist it. Even if the court rules to accept it, the prosecution could appeal, starting the whole process again which obviously would be extremely distressing for the 4 defendants.

I will let everyone know what happens on 8 March and if further follow up action is required.

Saturday Mothers/People

 The 6th hearing in the baseless prosecution of the 46 people from the Saturday Mothers/People group related to their banned gathering in 2018 as reported in the January newsletter as being scheduled for 03.02.2023 was in the end postponed because the judge was ill. A new date has not yet been identified.

In a further development, a few days ago a decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court on the application of a member of the group called Maside Ocak relating to the banning of the Saturday Mother/People in August 2018 that led to the prosecution was published in the Official Gazette.  Maside is the sister of Hasan Ocak who was forcibly “disappeared” in 1995 and daughter of 82 year old Emine Osak who has appeared prominently at Saturday Mother/Peoples vigils for many years.

Emine Osak

The Constitutional Court found that  Masides right of freedom to peaceful assembly had been violated and ruled that the decision should be sent to the Beyoglu Governorate in order that the violation of the right in the future be prevented.

Although this is a positive development, the court rejected that there was “ill-treatment” in the police’s attack to disperse the “banned” meeting despite the medical reports of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkiye. However, Saturday Mothers/People regard the ruling as very significant in apparently reversing the ban on Galatasaray Sq vigils but have not yet decided how to use this judgement to challenge the ongoing blockade .

International Women’s Day 8 March

  • There are two IWD marches planned in Istanbul (one in Kadikoy on Sunday 5 March and the night march on Wednesday 8 March in Taksim area). Amnesty will be monitoring the marches and I will update you on what transpires.
  • Erin Keskin
amnesty international

What better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than to use it to pay tribute to the incredible bravery and commitment to human rights of Eren Keskin and show solidarity with her. She has been repeatedly prosecuted and sometimes convicted under articles of the penal code unfairly limiting the right to freedom of expression. She is currently at risk of imprisonment following her latest conviction under Article 301 of the Penal Code “Denigrating the Turkish nation”.

Amnesty International has in the past published several urgent actions on behalf of Eren Keskin as she had been the target of serious death threats and was physically attacked.

More than one hundred judicial proceedings have been brought against Eren because of her outspoken stand against human rights violations in Turkey. In 1995 she was convicted to 2.5 years imprisonment and served six months in prison for referring to “Kurdistan” in an article. In recent years she was convicted at least four times to prison terms – for example because she used the word “Kurdistan” or because she reported publicly about sexual harassment against Kurdish women by soldiers and gendarmes. These verdicts were commuted into fines or suspended.

Eren Keskin was convicted of ‘membership of an armed terrorist organization’ and sentenced to six years and three months at the  in the Ozgur Gundem trial.


        On 8 March please use your social media channels to show support for Erin Keskin by posting messages such as:

          On International Women’s Day we stand in solidarity with you and                                        applaud your commitment to defending human rights and for standing                               up against injustice.

            On International Women’s Day we remember @KeskinEren1 and stand with                                  you in your fight for justice .

            @KeskinEren1 – An example to us all on International Women’s Day.

Please either use the image included in this document or better still an inspiring image/graphic related to International Women’s Day or suitable photograph of yourself and/or Amnesty colleagues showing solidarity messages to  support Eren.

            For Twitter please tag Eren: @KeskinEren1

            and Amnesty Turkey: @aforgutu

            For Instagram tag Eren at: erenkeskin84

            Include the following hashtag in your posts

            #ErenKeskinYalnızDeğildir (In English this means “Eren Keskin is not alone” )


Iceland’s abusive use of solitary confinement must end immediately. Solitary confinement is being used in ways that violate the rights of those awaiting trial, including being applied to people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses

Find out more in the new Amnesty report:

Iceland is vastly overusing solitary confinement in pre-trial detention, violating the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, with grave consequences for the accused and for their right to a fair trial.

Amnesty International is calling on the government of Iceland, which currently chairs the Council of Europe, to undertake immediate and meaningful reforms.

“Icelandic authorities have been aware of the harms that solitary confinement causes, and their overuse of it, for years. Yet still, every year on average over 80 people, including children and some people with intellectual disabilities, are locked in cells alone for over 22 hours per day. The authorities need to face facts. Iceland is violating the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, during its chairmanship of the body responsible for preventing and eradicating torture in Europe. It urgently needs to make significant changes to prevent it,” said Simon Crowther, Legal Adviser at Amnesty International.

Solitary confinement in Iceland is being abused on a massive scale, including children and individuals with disabilities. The Icelandic government needs to ensure a wholesale reform of the criminal code, and indeed the culture in the justice system, to end this abuse of people’s human rights.

You can find a full report here: Amnesty Iceland

During March 2023 we will focus on making this issue more visible online and making more people aware of Iceland’s abuse of solitary confinement. 

Fortress Europe and the universal human right to claim asylum from persecution

By Ulrike Schmidt

… Asylum and human rights law Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

The declaration of Universal Human Rights was written after the horrors Fascism and the Nazi regime as well as the second world war inflicted on Europe.  Millions of refugees and displaced people were desperately searching for a place of safety.

Now, not even 80 years later the commitments to the human rights of refugees seem forgotten or ignored. Human Rights defenders rescuing refugees from the Mediterranean are criminalized.

Frontex and Italy are assisting the Libyan coastguard to capture refugees and forcibly return them to the notorious detention camps where torture, rape and slave labour are rife.

Violent pushbacks continue at Greece’s sea and land borders with Turkey and at the borders of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to Belarus refugees are suffering arbitrary detention, denial of asylum, unlawful returns, violent pushbacks and inhuman and degrading treatment, in some cases amounting to torture.

Latvia: Return home or never leave the woods

On 24th June 2022 at the Spanish-Moroccan border with Melilla the brutality of the Morroccan and Spanish security forces left 37 people dead and 77 people missing while 470 were illegally expelled.

And the UK government is simply cancelling the universal human right to seek asylum from persecution for refugees who are arriving “illegally”. There are currently no legal ways to enter the UK except for refugees from war-torn Ukraine and a few re-settled refugees from Afghanistan. For most refugees from war-torn Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia, Iraq, and countries with horrendous human rights records like Iran and Congo, there are no alternatives to the dangerous journeys across the sea.

Rishi Sunak to launch bill to stop people arriving on small boats claiming asylum

The new law, provisionally called the illegal migration bill, is expected to try to make asylum claims inadmissible from those who travel to the UK on small boats. It would involve a duty being placed on the home secretary to remove “as soon as reasonably practicable”, to Rwanda or a “safe third country”, anyone who arrives on a small boat. Those who arrive will also be prevented from claiming asylum while in the UK, with plans to also ban them from returning once removed.

The UK governments policy of threatening refugees who have fled the horrors of war and oppression, of torture, of dangerous journeys and unbearable hardship with deportation to Rwanda, a country with its own human right violations, is unbelievably cruel.

I am supporting a family from Syria, who after 7 years of trying to find a safe place to stay, believing that England would hear them. The cold letter threatening deportation has crushed them, extinguished the hope and faith from the eyes of the children.

I believe as human beings, as human rights activists, as human rights defenders we have to fight this policy. We have to insist that Refugees are Welcome here.

Care for Calais is lobbying the government to open safe and legal routes for refugees to apply for asylum in the UK

The Government has tried all sorts of things to reduce the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats – but none of it has worked. In fact, more people than ever are crossing in small boats since the Rwanda policy was announced.

The truth is, people in desperate situations will continue to risk their lives to find safety until there’s a safer option.

So what can be done?

People who are brave and resilient enough to have escaped from the worst terrors in this world should not be risking their lives once again to claim asylum in the UK. We know it’s possible to give people safe passage – we do it for Ukrainian refugees – so why not do it for other refugees?

By using an online screening process and issuing travel visas, we could bring refugees to the UK safely to claim asylum – putting people smugglers out of a job. This worked for Ukrainians. So why won’t the Government act?

What if this means that more come?

In 2022 the UK issued 208,304 visas to Ukrainians and 144,576 to people from Hong Kong. There is no reason we can’t do the same for just 45,756 from everywhere else in the world, particularly when we have 1.3 million job vacancies that we are unable to fill.

Once their asylum claims are approved, people can work and support themselves, they can pay taxes and use their skills and talents to benefit our society, there is no reason for them to cost us anything.

#SafePassage now:

#RefugeesWelcome #StopRwanda #UKpolitics

#SafePassage for Refugees

Donate now

Safe passage for refugees

People who are brave and resilient enough to have escaped from the worst terrors in this world should not be risking their lives once again to claim asylum in the UK. We know it’s possible to give people safe passage – we do it for Ukrainian refugees – so why not do it for other refugees?

By using an online screening process and issuing travel visas, we could bring refugees to the UK safely to claim asylum – putting people smugglers out of a job. This worked for Ukrainians. So why won’t the Government act?

You can help spread the word that there’s a kinder and more effective way to stop Channel crossings and save lives. Share the video now, it takes just 30 seconds.

Please watch and share the video :

Care4Calais Safe Passage

Encouraged by statements of leading politicians far right groups including the fascist Patriotic Alternative (founded and led by a admirer of Adolf Hitler) have started attacking hotels where asylum-seekers are temporarily accommodated.

But more and more people in Britain are standing up in solidarity with refugees.

Led by the Fire-Brigades Union, the teachers Union NEU, the Public Service Union PCS are calling for solidarity with refugees

Trade unions unite in solidarity with refugees

On 18th March   #World Against Racism is demonstrating in numerous cities across Europe: UK, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, and in the US, Brazil and South Africa.

Join the Refugee Welcome bloc on 18th March 12noon at Portland place. I Welcome Refugees !

Join the protest on March 18

On 10 February we witnessed a disgraceful riot outside a Knowsley hotel housing asylum seekers; since then a wave of protests have been held outside other asylum hotels across Britain. Sadly, rather than condemning this intimidation of people who came to our country simply to ask for help, our ‘leaders’ have given it their support.

Arguably, this fear and hate was incited from the top – what can you expect when you tell ordinary people their country is being invaded?

This is why there has never been a more important time to take a stand and say that refugees are welcome here. Because all that it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to stand by and do nothing.

As part of a global day of anti-racist protest, Care4Calais will be marching in solidarity alongside Stand Up To Racism and Trades Union Congress (TUC) in London on March 18, 2023.

This moment could be a turning point in our history, and we need to ensure that fairness prevails. As governments around the world are intensifying hostile environments for refugees and migrants, your support is needed more than ever, as we say loud and clear: Refugees are welcome here!

Chris Ramsey country coordinator for Türkiye, Jovana Bosnjak country coordinator for Northern and Western Europe, Rovena Tanazi country coordinator for the Balkans, Greece, Western Mediterranean and the El Hiblu case, Ulrike Schmidt country coordinator for Central Europe.