Europe Newsletter May 2022

The war unleashed by Putin’s army against Ukraine has led to the largest displacement of people within Europe since the second world war. For once the EU has agreed to implement the TPD (temporary protection directive) which allows refugees from Ukraine to find refuge within the EU without bureaucratic obstacles and with permission to work and re-build their lives. But not all refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine are given the same generous help.  Amina Gerikhanov had fled with her little son from Chechnya to Ukraine, now driven to flee the war she is threatened with deportation to Russia from Romania. Please take Action.

In particular people in Poland and Moldavia have been exemplary in their generosity and welcome towards Ukrainian refugees. But at Poland’s other border with Belarus refugees including women with small children fleeing equally brutal wars and violence in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are still forced back into the swampy forests at the border with Belarus, violently pushed from both sides of the border. Those who did succeed in not being pushed back are languishing in overcrowded detention centers. In one detention center 20-24 people were squashed into rooms measuring only 8 square meter. Nearly 2000 people including hundreds of children are detained in Polish detention centers. Please read Amnesty’s latest report:-


Polish people, mostly women, who are bringing food and aid into the forest to help refugees survive are being criminalised. Women like Weronika Klemby who has been arrested and is threatened with 3 month imprisonment : ”My fault is that I didn’t want to let people die who are not welcome in Poland by the authorities. Giving people in the forest warm soup, that is all “

In Italy court proceedings against the crew of the Iuventa are starting on 21. May. Over 14000 people were rescued by the Iuventa from drowning in the Mediterranean until the ship was seized by the Italian authorities and the crew arrested.

Court proceedings also started against the El Hiblu 3 in Malta, whose only crime was to use their language skills and help to negotiate the rescue of more than 100 people.

And shockingly the UK government is planning to send people seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda. This is the most shocking assault by our government on the Right to Asylum which is already thoroughly undermined by the Nationality and Borders Bill. Please take action and lobby your MP.

AI must remain alert, call out and fight any measures that reflect systemic racism entrenched in Europe’s migration policies. While working to ensure that the welcoming attitude towards people fleeing the war in Ukraine is viable and long-lasting, we also must ensure that this doesn’t further entrench a two-tier system for refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe.


Sadly, April was not a good month for Human Rights in Turkey

amnesty international

Osman Kavala

Aggravated life sentence for Osman Kavala a devastating blow for human rights 

On 25 April, civil society leader Osman Kavala, who had been imprisoned on pretrial detention since November 2017, was convicted for “attempting to overthrow the government” and sentenced to aggravated life in prison; his seven co-defendants each received a sentence of 18 years, allegedly for aiding Osman Kavala and were immediately remanded in prison.

Responding to the conviction, Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, said:

“Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict deals a devastating blow not only to Osman Kavala, his co-defendants and their families, but to everyone who believes in justice and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond.

 “The court’s decision defies all logic. The prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that substantiates the baseless charges of attempting to overthrow the government. This unjust verdict shows that the Gezi trial was only an attempt to silence independent voices.                               

“This politically motivated charade has already seen Osman Kavala arbitrarily imprisoned for more than four-and-a-half years over his civil society activism. We continue to call for Osman Kavala’s and his co-defendants’ immediate release as they appeal these draconian verdicts.”

Further information

The Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No.13 sentenced Osman Kavala to aggravated life in prison. Unless the appeals courts overturn the verdict, Osman Kavala will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No 13 also ordered the immediate remand in prison of the seven co-defendants. Architect Mucella Yapici, film producer Cigdem Mater, filmmaker Mine Ozerden were taken to Bakirkoy women’s prison and lawyer Can Atalay, city planner Tayfun Kahraman, university director and Anadolu Kultur board member Hakan Altinay were taken to Silivri prison. One of the founders of Istanbul’s Bilgi University, Yigit Ekmekci, who is also on the board of Anadolu Kultur was not in court for the verdict and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
The verdict has sent shock waves across Turkey and beyond – the severity of the sentences and the immediate remand of Osman Kavala’s co-defendants represents a serious challenge by the Turkish authorities who are sending a message to the European Court of Human Rights where the infringement proceedings are ongoing that they will not change course and abide by the Court’s binding decisions.

Osman Kavala was convicted on the same charge for which the ruling of the European Court stated very clearly that there was insufficient evidence to detain him in pre-trial detention and that his treatment was in pursuing an ulterior motive. In addition, he was acquitted for the charge that kept him behind bars since March 2020, that of ‘political and military espionage’ due to a ‘lack of evidence’ despite the fact that the authorities have relentlessly argued his continued detention was under ‘entirely different charges which had not been examined by the European Court’ in their numerous submissions to the Committee of Ministers.

Put simply, Osman Kavala who should not have been behind bars a single day because the prosecuting authorities have not offered a shred of evidence is now facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. The same complete lack of evidence applies to all seven other defendants too.

Amnesty International is now calling on the Chief Prosecutor for the Istanbul Regional Appeals Court to support and not to oppose any application or request from Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, and Hakan Altınay, all currently in prison, that they be released while they appeal their unjust convictions.

Eren Keskin: Sentence upheld

amnesty international

© Amnesty International / photo: Henning Schacht

On April 14, 2022, the Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal Number 27 upheld the sentence of six years and three months in prison for “membership of an armed group” (Article 314/2 of the Criminal Code) handed down against Eren Keskin by the İstanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court on February 15, 2021 in the Özgür Gündem trial.

Ms. Keskin’s lawyers have appealed this decision before the Court of Cassation (Yargıtay) and she remains free pending trial.

Eren Keskin is a brave and passionate 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.

Turkish Women’s Rights group faces closure

On Wednesday 13 April a Turkish prosecutor’s office filed a lawsuit , seeking to close down the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, Turkey’s leading women’s NGO, for allegedly “acting against the law and against morality”. Prosecutors claim the group was “disintegrating the family structure by ignoring the concept of the family”

As reported in Balkan Insight, the NGO was established 12 years ago to protest against the murders of women in the country but has since become one of the most prominent social movements in Turkey and has organised several mass demonstrations due to the increasing number of femicides and the government’s inaction to protect women and end domestic violence.

The We Will Stop Femicide Platform said the suit against it was filed after various petitions of complaint against the NGO were sent to the prosecution.

“These petitions consist of written applications claiming our association has been ‘disintegrating the family structure by ignoring the concept of the family under the guise of defending women’s rights’, a claim not based on any concrete facts,” the NGO said in a written statement.It added that the lawsuit also contains includes previous police investigations into the administrators of the NGO, which did not result in charges.

“While we are calling on the political authorities, prosecutors and courts to do their duty on behalf of women, they prefer to target those who are addressing the issue, with meaningless lawsuits,” it said.

Femicide and violence against women are major problems in Turkey. So far this year, at least 111 women have been killed by men; 419 women were killed by men in 2021 and 413 in 2020.

Turkey was the first country to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Combating Violence Against Women, the so-called Istanbul Convention. But Islamist and conservative critics claimed that it undermined traditional family values, and in 2021President Recep Tayyip Erdogan withdrew the country from the treaty


Since the PIS (Law and Justice Party) took power in Poland women’s reproductive rights have been systematically dismantled. Despite mass protests abortions are now practically outlawed. In October 2020 the government controlled supreme court made abortions of foetus with severe abnormalities illegal.

Last year a woman died of septicaemia when doctors were too scared to remove her dying foetus from her womb. Now the women who are still speaking out are targeted by the Polish authorities.

Woman human rights defender, Justyna Wydrzyńska, faces three years in prison solely for supporting people in need of an abortion. Charges against her appear to be intended to punish her activism and efforts to ensure people’s rights to access safe and legal abortion in Poland.  The Polish authorities must drop all charges against Justyna, refrain from further reprisals against her or other activists campaigning for sexual and reproductive rights, and fully decriminalise access to abortion in Poland.  Please take Action, download this Urgent Action We worked on this case at our May meeting, there is a model letter to download.

Defend the Right to Asylum in the UK

The outrageous government proposal by Home Office Priti Patel to send  refugees who entered the UK by crossing the channel to Rwanda must be vigorously opposed.

People are risking their lives on these treacherous journeys because there are no safe and legal routes available. Many are trying to reach their families in the UK others are believing that in the UK their human rights will be protected. As long as war, violence and repression are forcing people to flee, some (most are hosted in neighbouring , often very poor countries) will ask for asylum in the UK .

Every year at Refugee Week we are celebrating the enrichment refugees have brought to our communities and society as a whole.  The idea to ship refugees to Rwanda and cynically claim that this is saving lives would not surprise if it originated from the far right. This proposal must be fought tooth and nail.  It is about the human rights of refugees, and also about our values and our identity as a civilized nation. Seeking Asylum is a Human Right. Please write to your MP; download a model letter:- Amnesty MP letter Rwanda  Find who your MP is here 


A slippery slope for human rights – Italy launches its biggest trial against sea-rescue NGOs.

On 21.05.2022, 5 years after the most extensive and controversial investigation into non-governmental rescue organization in the Mediterranean, 21 defendants will finally face their accusers in a preliminary hearing at the Court of Trapani.

The four German defendants from the rescue ship iuventa, Kathrin Schmidt, Dariush Beigui, Sascha Girke and Uli Tröder, contributed in 2016/2017 to rescuing more than 14,000 of people from drowning in the central Mediterranean Sea. The prosecution alleges that these rescues were not carried out in response to distress at sea nor to prevent people from certain death. The accusation rather sees the intention of illegally facilitating the entry of people into Italy.                                                             

Preliminary hearing of the case, starting on 21 May 2022

The judge in Trapani has set three dates for the preliminary hearing of the case, starting on 21 May 2022, and then, if more time is required, on 7 June and 5 July.

The purpose of the preliminary hearing is for the parties to formally appear before the court and for the judge to decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial. A formal indictment is issued only after the preliminary hearing – so far the accused have only been served but not indicted.

Action suggestion if you are from: Bristol, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Liverpool (where there are Italian Consulates)  We would like to suggest to local groups physical mobilisation in front of Italian consulates on 21 of May if possible.  If you are able to organise by yourself your local group for the 21st of May please let us know as soon as possible.


Amnesty International

Who are the ElHiblu3?

Aged 15, 16 and 19 at the time (in 2019), Amara, Kader and Abdalla, now known as the El Hiblu 3, wanted what we all do: a safer, better life.

That common goal brought them from Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire to Libya. Desperate to escape the violence, arbitrary detention and exploitation reserved for refugees and migrants there, they boarded a dinghy with 100 others bound for Europe.

The dinghy soon ran into trouble and was rescued by the El Hiblu, an oil transporter. The El Hiblu’s crew then tried to return those rescued to Libya – which was unlawful – despite promising that they wouldn’t.

A protest broke out. The three youths were asked to help calm the situation. Acting as interpreters, they defended the right of those rescued not to face torture again in Libya. The crew turned the ship towards Europe.

However, as it entered Malta’s waters, the Maltese authorities stormed the ship, claiming the three had taken it by force. They charged the youths with offences so serious that they could be jailed for life. The three youths had simply tried to defend their safety and to protect those rescued with them. Now they’re in the dock.

Amnesty International demands justice for the #ElHiblu3.  There are some interesting suggestions AIUK have suggested:-  EL HIBLU 3 31 DAYS OF ACTION CALENDAR


On 4 May, the High Court of Cassation and Justice in Romania will make a final decision on the extradition to Russia of a Chechen woman, Amina Gerikhanova. In 2016, she left Chechnya for Ukraine taking her toddler son to flee from political persecution. They lived in Ukraine until early March 2022, when they were forced to flee Russia’s invasion. Amina Gerikhanova was detained at the Romanian border based on Russia’s extradition request and separated from her eight-year-old son.

On 18 April, the Suceava Court of Appeal authorised Amina Gerikhanova’s extradition to Russia. Her appeal on that decision is pending. If extradited, Amina Gerikhanova will face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The Romanian authorities must reject the extradition request and grant her international protection. Please take Action, download this  Urgent Action As we worked on this case at our meeting, there is  a model letter you can download.


The rapid relief effort at the border, exceptional generosity of civil society and willingness of Polish authorities to receive people fleeing from Ukraine contrast starkly with the Polish government’s hostility toward refugees and migrants who have arrived in the country via Belarus since July 2021. Hundreds of people who crossed from Belarus have been arbitrarily detained in Poland in appalling conditions and without access to a fair asylum proceeding.

Many have been forcibly returned to their countries of origin, some under sedation. In addition, hundreds of people remain stranded inside Belarus and face increasingly desperate conditions. They are unable to access asylum proceedings and protection either in Poland, where they face repeated violent pushbacks by the Polish Border Guard, or in Belarus, where authorities have forcibly returned many people to their countries of origin, without a fair process. These practices are in violation of international law and the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits returns to places where individuals would face a real risk of serious human rights violations.

People who have avoided pushbacks to Belarus and succeeded in having their applications for international protection considered in Poland have inevitably ended up arbitrarily detained, often for prolonged periods of time, in closed centres for foreigners. In these centres, they have been held in substandard conditions, without privacy, adequate sanitary facilities, or access to doctors, psychologists or legal assistance.

Residents compared some of these centres to “Guantánamo,” and described buildings surrounded with barbed wire amid active military facilities with persistent sounds of armored vehicles, helicopters and gunshots from military exercises echoing in the area. In some centres, people lived in overcrowded spaces with up to 24 people in one small room, one hour of access to outdoor areas per day and almost no communication with the outside world.

The Polish government must immediately stop illegal pushbacks; grant access to its territory to any person fleeing conflict or other danger and seeking protection; halt the arbitrary detention of foreign nationals who have crossed from Belarus; provide access to fair asylum procedures; and refrain from returning any person to a place where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment. Such obligations are not optional under international human rights and refugee law, they are required.