New measures that make overseas human rights abusers liable to personal sanctions in the UK could be deployed against officials involved in the mass arrests of Turkish lawyers if a new campaign is successful.
The Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project is a response to what activist group the Arrested Lawyers Initiative calls 'continuous breaches of the rule of law and imprisonment of lawyers, activists, journalists, and academics on trumped up charges'. It will seek to apply the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 to Turkish individuals. The so-called 'Magnitsky Act', announced by the foreign secretary in July permits a minister to impose travel bans and asset freezes on individuals where there are reasonable grounds to suspect involvement in relation to human rights violations.
The Arrested Lawyers Initiative says that, since 2016, lawyers, presidents of bar associations and judges who refused to act on the government’s direction have been detained and arrested on trumped-up charges. In August, imprisoned lawyer Ebru Timtik died on the 238th day of a hunger strike in protest against a 13-year prison sentence.
The accountability project says it intends to instruct two top English human rights barristers to act to draft submissions for sanctions against those responsible for 'gross violations of basic human rights'.
Kevin Dent QC of 5SAH, said: ‘This is an exciting project which looks to mount an application to the United Kingdom government for prominent human rights abusers in Turkey to be placed on the UK’s Magnitsky sanctions list. The age of impunity for those who would abuse human rights is well and truly over and this campaign will utilise the recently-enacted UK regulations in order to make a powerful application for sanctions.’