A deadline set for the release of a UN tribunal judge detained in Turkey passed yesterday with no communication from Turkey and no end to his detention. ‘At the moment no news on this matter,’ a spokesperson for the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) at The Hague told the Gazette.
Aydin Sefa Akay, a MICT judge, was detained last September. His detention has stalled the case of Rwandan politician Augustin Ngirabatware, who is appealing a 30-year sentence for genocide and other crimes.
The court order setting the deadline for judge Akay’s release invoked the authority of the Security Council. It said Turkey should ‘cease all legal proceedings against Judge Aydin Sefa Akay and… take all necessary steps to ensure his release from detention, no later than 14 February 2017’.
On this reading, the government of Turkey’s defiance of the court order has put the country in breach of Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) which requires that all states comply with orders issued by the mechanism.
Counsel for Ngirabatware, Peter Robinson, emailed yesterday: ‘If Judge Akay is not released today, I plan on filing a motion first thing tomorrow morning asking that president [of the MICT] Meron report Turkey to the UN Security Council for failing to comply with his order (MICT Rule 8).’
Robinson will also ask for ‘modification of the conditions of detention of my client Augustin Ngirabatware while we await the release of Judge Akay (MICT Rule 67)’. To date, the tribunal's president has declined to appoint another judge to the case in Akay’s absence, and refused requests to release Ngirabatware from custody while his appeal is pending.
Tony Fisher, chair of the Law Society’s human rights committee, said: ‘The situation in Turkey is worsening daily. There are now some 300 lawyers in custody and up to 3,000 judges and prosecutors have been arrested. The refusal to release Judge Ayay shows the complete lack of regard which the Turkish authorities are now showing towards the United Nations.’
He added: ‘Similarly appeals from members of the international legal community from all corners of the globe to follow due process and uphold the rule of law in its treatment of arrested members of the judiciary and lawyers are being ignored.’