ICC asked to probe Turkish 'crimes' against opponents

ICC asked to probe Turkish 'crimes' against opponents
Rights lawyers have asked the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes by the Turkish government in their crackdown of opponents.
2 min read
Erdogan launched a wide crackdown on his opponents following a failed 2016 military coup [Getty/archive]

Rights lawyers said Wednesday they had asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged crimes against humanity by the Turkish government targeting opponents around the world.

The case submitted to the Hague-based court alleges torture, enforced disappearance, wrongful imprisonment and persecution of some 200,000 opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey is not a signatory to the ICC, but the lawyers say Turkish officials can be investigated for alleged crimes against 1,300 victims on the territory of 45 countries that are members.

Belgium's former deputy prime minister Johan Vande Lanotte, a law professor involved in the submission, told a press conference in The Hague he was hopeful the ICC would take up the case.

"Important members of the (Turkish) government cannot deny they are responsible, because they proclaimed their responsibility proudly," he said.

While any person or group can file a complaint to the ICC prosecutor, he is not obliged to launch an investigation.

The complaint was submitted in February but only unveiled publicly on Wednesday after a delay because of the devastating February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

"Turkish officials have committed crimes against humanity against hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Erdogan regime," said the communication submitted to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan.

Khan "must now consider whether the court will open the investigations with a possible result that high-ranking officials of a NATO ally could be" implicated, it said.

The filing was signed by a Belgian law firm representing a number of victims, a "Turkey tribunal" held in Geneva in 2021, and a European group of judges and prosecutors.

The 1,300 cases highlighted in the complaint all involve people linked by the Turkish government to Fethullah Gulen - a US-based preacher Erdogan blames for a failed military coup in 2016.

It details 17 alleged forced disappearances in which people were abducted from Albania, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Gabon, Kenya, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland and taken to Turkey.

The persecution allegation involves the closure of Turkish schools abroad, affecting some 522 teachers and their families, and the withdrawals of the passports of some 206 people.

Lawyers cited the ICC's ongoing probe into non-member Myanmar as an example of how Turkey could be brought to book.

The court said it had jurisdiction in the Myanmar situation because it affects Rohingya Muslims in neighbouring Bangladesh, which is a signatory to the ICC.