An international war crimes tribunal has made public increasingly desperate pleas for one of its judges, detained in Turkey.

Judge Aydin Sefa Akay, who is Turkish, was detained following the failed coup against the Turkish government in July. Since the coup attempt 37,000 people have been arrested.

The president of the Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), Theodore Meron, alerted the UN General Assembly to the case in early November.

The UN secretary general then wrote to the government in Ankara asserting Akay’s diplomatic immunity, although the UN's Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs has refused requests to release the correspondence to MICT lawyers. For its part, Ankara has not even replied to Meron's request for permission to visit Akay.

Now lawyer Peter Robinson has used his position as defence counsel in a case Akay is reviewing to ask that the UN’s own legal team be invited to, and attend, the 17 January 2017 hearing to which the government of Turkey has been invited to explain Akay’s arrest and detention.

Robinson’s application, filed today, said: ‘The [UN] Office of Legal Affairs is best placed to make submissions on the basis for the assertion of diplomatic immunity that may be raised by the government of Turkey at the hearing.’

Previously, Meron told the General Assembly: ‘Absent clear understanding of his conditions of detention, and a response to my request for authorisation to visit judge Akay, my concern for my judicial colleague’s welfare from a humanitarian standpoint likewise becomes all the stronger.’

Akay is one of five judges hearing a review of judgment on Augustin Ngirabatware, a former Rwandan planning minister. Ngirabatware was sentenced on appeal to 30 years for inciting, instigating, aiding and abetting genocide. Robinson is his defence counsel.