Saturday Mothers/People, a group of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and other human rights defenders are prevented from exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square every Saturday, a place of symbolic importance to the group. Riot police have again used unnecessary force during detention of the rights defenders and widened their security perimeter preventing independent observation by journalists and civil society organizations.
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I am writing to call on you to ensure that Saturday Mothers/People who have been denied their right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Galatasaray Square in Istanbul since August 2018 are allowed to hold their weekly vigil free from police excessive use of force and without fear of arrest and detention.
Since April 8, 2023, Saturday Mothers/People have been trying to return to Galatasaray Square every Saturday, in line with two Constitutional Court rulings in November 2022 and March 2023. Yet the Square remains under constant police blockade every Saturday. Those wishing to hold their short peaceful vigil are detained by police before they even reach the Square and journalists and civil society organizations are prevented from observing the police intervention.
The repeated arbitrary arrests and detention of the Saturday Mothers/People violates their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly under Türkiye’s Constitution, as established in the Maside Ocak (No. 2019/21721) and Gülseren Yoleri (No. 2020/7092) rulings, and Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Türkiye is a party to.
I urge you to use your authority to ensure that police allow Saturday Mothers/People and other peaceful protesters to gather on Galatasaray Square. I also urge you to order the Beyoğlu governor to lift the ban and refrain from imposing new bans on assemblies in Galatasaray Square, in line with the above-mentioned rulings of the Constitutional Court.