International News

Margaret Owen on the 9 Days of Curfew in Cizire, S.E. Turkey

Margaret Owen on the 9 Days of Curfew in Cizire, S.E. Turkey

By Margaret Owen

Our UK delegation of two human rights barristers, myself (patron of Peace in Kurdistan), and Melanie Gingell, with health practitioner, Dr. Shatha Besarani were Invited by the Kurdish Women’s Council of Diyarbakir to visit Cizire, the mainly Kurdish town in Southeastern Turkey, and Sur, a poor district in Diyarbakir where there has been such violence in recent weeks.

Our brief was to investigate and report on what actually happened during the 9 days of curfew in Cizire, (September 4th till 12th) and the two days in Sur (September 14th and 15th) when the inhabitants were attacked by the police and the army. This rendered them unable to leave their homes, even to bury their dead.

We wanted also to learn about how the curfews, bombardments, killings, and deprivations had particularly affected women and children.

It is a violent and unpredictable time. From the moment the pro Kurdish HDP party gained its 81 seats in the June presidential election and deprived President Erdogan of winning the mandate to gain more executive power, the AKP party has resorted to ever more violent repression of its Kurdish citizens, not just in the Southeast but all over Turkey.

There is a great fear in the population that the violence will increase as the date for the snap election on November 1st approaches. However all is unpredictable, in the hands of President Erdogan who now risks plunging Turkey into a civil war, a return to the violence of the 1990s.

The peace process shattered this summer, which makes it vital that the UK government and the international community in general urge Turkey to stop this violence, and respect international law, including humanitarian law.

Towns and cities where 80% of the citizens voted for the HDP, declared “self-administrated democracy”, or protested about the arbitrary dismissal and arrests of their elected (Kurdish) mayors became targets for the most horrific bombardments. Unarmed civilians were killed with no evidence that any of them were armed members of the terror-tagged PKK. These atrocities have been committed by (Turkish) Governors and police who are using the draconian powers given to them under the Anti-Terror act.

We met with the Free Women’s Congress (an umbrella Organization for women from all political parties), the women’s lawyers association in Diyarbakir, and with the human rights association. We were also able to talk freely with the civilian survivors of the bombardments, walked through the broken, gutted streets of their districts, clambered over the remains of family houses and spoke to grieving relatives.

Here is a short-list of some of the things we learnt:

1. Collective punishment, such as that taken against the civilian men, women and children, as revenge for the killing of two policemen by the PKK (and that was as a consequence of other Turkish state acts against Kurds) is a violation of Article 33 Geneva Convention.

2. The curfew was in breach of international law. For nine days in Cizre, water, electricity and mobile phone connections were cut off.

3. During the curfew, Cizre was surrounded by 5,000 police, and army tanks, during which police officers were ordered (by the Governor) to ” shoot to kill”. Tanks and rockets fired shells and bombs into Cizire killing 21 people. Relatives could neither bury their dead nor take the wounded to hospital. Bodies were kept in freezers and fridges (including one which belonged to a baby).

4. One of the saddest cases was the murder of 10 year old Cemike Cagirga, on September 7th, the fourth day of the siege. She had simply opened the door of her family compound when she was shot in the chest by police snipers from a building across the street from her house.Once the curfew was lifted, her family took her body out of the freezer and took it to the hospital. The police collected the body for autopsy and in utter disregard of fundamental rights the body was then labeled “no family”. Resultantly, when Cemike’s father attempted to obtain the report, his request was refused because the family had not been represented by a lawyer or a doctor. This was just one of many similar cases.

5. The constant bombardment, lack of food and water caused several miscarriages. One of the casualties was a 5 week old baby.

6. Further evidence of the deliberate policy to harm the Kurdish population, using means that are in gross breach of international law,was the order for doctors to remain in their houses. Attempts by Kurdish doctors to offer their services at the local hospital and in the stricken districts was refused by the Governor and the Police.

7.The AKP and the Police claimed that the PKK was responsible for the killings.

8. In Sur, the police also sprayed with bullets a notable 16th century mosque and an ancient church. Such desecration of antiquities are crimes we associate with ISIS as opposed to government forces.

9. As we were leaving Cizire, the woman who had been co-mayor before her dismissal, and who had met us upon our arrival, was informed that the police were searching to arrest her. She made her very rapid goodbyes saying ” I must go and hide.”


The women lawyers here are in the process of documenting all these abuses, with the intention of bringing prosecutions against those responsible for these human rights violations. However, in the current state of the Turkish justice system, not only is it unlikely that such a prosecution would be successful, but these lawyers themselves could be arrested under articles 301 – 305 of the Penal Code for insulting the State.

Who is responsible ultimately for orders to “shoot to kill”? It is difficult to find the command chain. What is clear is that this is now the most dangerous period in Turkey’s history. Since 2013, the PKK has asked for a peaceful resolution and put down its arms. Turkey broke the ceasefire this summer, and is hurtling along a disastrous path.

It is imperative that we persuade the UK and all UN Members to come together to use all possible diplomatic and other means to resurrect the peace process. It also must be insured that all international observers are in Turkey to monitor the snap election procedures on November 1st.

What we witnessed these last few days in Cizre and Sur should act as a serious warning that there could well be a return to the conflict which, two decades ago, killed over 40,000 people. If civil war returns to Turkey it will engulf the whole region.

We hope to speak about what we learnt in a public forum. All the lawyers we spoke to at the İHD (Human Rights Association, Diyarbakir) and at the KJA (Kurdish Women’s Congress) stressed the importance of having international observers in Turkey to monitor the presidential November 1st election.

International News Upcoming Events

The Trial of Selahattin Demirtas: Observations on the trial and the future of democracy in Turkey

The Trial of Selahattin Demirtas: Observations on the trial and the future of democracy in Turkey

Public meeting organised by Peace in Kurdistan and Kurdish People’s Assembly UK

Thu 17 May 2018
18:00 – 20:00 BST

SOAS University of London
Room B111 (Brunei Gallery)
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square London WC1H 0XG

Click below to book a place at this free event:

The prosecution and trial of Selahattin Demirtas has been one of the great scandals of recent years in Europe. Demirtas, an elected politician and co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party in Turkey (HDP), has been in detention since November 2016 on the most dubious charges. The HDP is the second largest opposition party in Turkey and is progressive and democratic. It advocates for rights for all progressive forces, including importantly the Kurds.

The election success of the HDP in 2015, when it broke through the 10% electoral threshold and gained 80 seats, sparked a democratic crisis in Turkey. Party members, elected officers and Party offices of the HDP were attacked with impunity. Elected politicians were arrested and charged with terrorism related offences, often in relation to the content of speeches made in Parliament. The Government took over almost all municipalities in the South-East of the country, depriving the electorate of their chosen representatives.

The indictment against Demirtas runs to 500 pages and accuses him of being a leading member of the PKK, of spreading propaganda and of praising criminals, but the evidence is mainly based on his public speeches and lacks any compelling evidence of criminal behaviour.

Margaret Owen and Ali Has, both London based lawyers, have been the most consistent observers of the on-going trial of Demirtas, visiting Turkey regularly, despite all the obstacles that the authorities have consistently thrown in their way. Their observation reports have documented numerous flagrant breaches of internationally recognised standards of fair trial.

At this meeting they, and London lawyer Stephen Knight who also observed one of the hearings, will expand on their observations and set out their concerns about the process, the political context, in particular the forthcoming election and the invasion of Afrin, and about the likely miscarriage of justice that will ensue as the trial approaches its final stages.


Margaret Owen OBE, Lawyer, Door tenant at 9 Bedford Row, feminist, activist founder and director Widows for Peace through Democracy, Patron Peace in Kurdistan Campaign.
Ali Has, Solicitor Advocate, member of the Law Society International Human Rights Intervention Team.
Stephen Knight, criminal defence and immigration barrister at 1 Pump Court Chambers, Secretary of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.


Image supplied by Margaret Owen

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International News Opportunities Upcoming Events

The Role of the Private Sector in Fostering Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG 16)

The Role of the Private Sector in Fostering Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG 16)

The Global Rule of Law Exchange (of The Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law) is hosting a conference on 2nd May 2018 at Jones Day in London (21 Tudor Street, EC4Y0DJ). Registration for the event will open at 8:30, with the conference itself starting at 9:00 and finishing at 18:00. A reception is to be held afterwards. Although the event is free to attend, advance registration is still required.

Event Summary:

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development encompass a wide range of ambitious objectives, from ending poverty, to improving global health, providing education for all, and mitigating climate change. The private sector role in achieving these goals is widely understood; however, it is often viewed as consisting exclusively of financing development initiatives, generating economic growth, job creation, or tax revenue.

SDG 16, relating to peace, justice and strong institutions, presents a set of issues of particular salience to the private sector, including a number of factors that directly foster stable business environments. This conference will consider various questions arising from the intersection of business and SDG 16, including:

• Why should the business community engage to advance SDG 16′s themes of peace, justice and strong institutions?

• In what ways might the SDGs generally, and SDG 16 in particular, be “good for business”?

• What is the business community’s role in advancing SDG 16? What tools and instruments can help the private sector work to advance the Goal? How can the private sector engage with other stakeholders, including government, in advancing SDG 16?

• What are actions, both internal and external, that business can take to concretely advance SDG 16?

• Does commitment to SDG16 conflict with or complement other compliance and reporting requirements, including on human rights?

• How and where should the private sector deploy its resources in an effective way to meet these various obligations?

Featured speakers at the event will include:

Esteban Mezzano (General Counsel Zone Americas & Legal in Sustainability & CSV Nestlé) David Croft (Global Sustainability Director, Diageo, Helen Dodds, Global Head, Legal, Dispute Resolution, Standard Chartered Bank) Nicola Port (Senior Vice President, International Counsel at Chubb), Richard Morgan (Head of Government Relations, Anglo American), Alejandro Alvarez (Chief, Rule of Law Unit, Executive Office of UN Secretary-General).

The Keynote speakers will be Manoelle Lepoutre (Senior Vice President, Civil and Society Engagement, Total) and Harriett Baldwin MP (Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Minister of State for International Development).

Representatives from Safaricom, Sahara Group and other distinguished speakers/thought leaders from the policy worlds (UNGC, OECD, Pathfinders Programme, etc) will also be in attendance.

Click below to read the event flyer:

And click the following link to book a ticket and to visit the official webpage for the conference:


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ICLB Member Activities International News

IBA Political Prisons Report Used in Recent US Congressional Resolution

IBA Political Prisons Report Used in Recent US Congressional Resolution

A recent US Congressional resolution relies extensively on passages from the IBA’s Political Prisons Inquiry report in which 9 Bedford Row’s Steven Kay QC and Kirsty Sutherland acted as counsel for the Inquiry. Pages 3-6 are devoted to a lengthy, verbatim recitation of Inquiry findings.

Please see the following link for further details:


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International Criminal Law News International News

Article from December 2017 Marks 25 Years of the ICTY

Article from December 2017 Marks 25 Years of the ICTY

At the end of last year an article was published by Dutch Reformed Daily, marking 25 years since the launch of the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia). The piece attempts to answer whether the high expectations for the court when it was initially launched in 1993 have been met over two decades later. Steven Kay QC is quoted in the article which can be found below. NOTE: article is in Dutch so will need to be translated to be read in full.ë-tribunaal-van-blijvende-waarde-1.1457025


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ICLB Member Activities International News

9BRi and ICLB Members in ADC-ICT Elections

9BRi and ICLB Members in ADC-ICT Elections

Jens Dieckmann (Associate Member of 9 Bedford Row International) and Colleen Rohan (Member of 9 Bedford Row International and the International Criminal Law Bureau) both ran in the recent ADC-ICTY elections. Colleen Rohan has been elected as President of the ADC-ICT for 2017/2018 and has become a Member of the Executive Committee. Meanwhile Jens Dieckmann has been reelected as Member and Chair of the ADC-ICT Disciplinary Council for 2017/2018.

To read Jens and Colleen’s ADC-ICTY profiles and to learn about the other members of the Disciplinary Council and the Executive Committees, click the links below:


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International Criminal Law News International News

IBA News Release – North Korea: Inquiry finds Kim Jong-un should be investigated and prosecuted for crimes against humanity

IBA News Release – North Korea: Inquiry finds Kim Jong-un should be investigated and prosecuted for crimes against humanity

Warning: graphic information in this report may upset some readers

A new report, authored by three internationally renowned judges – Navanethem ‘Navi’ PillayThomas Buergenthal and Mark B Harmon – under the auspices of the International Bar Association (IBA) War Crimes Committee, calls on the international community to vest in the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a special international tribunal the power to investigate crimes against humanity committed in North Korea’s political prisons, and to hold culpable parties accountable for their crimes, including ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong-un, members of the Workers’ Party of Korea and its Politburo, internal security officials and prison guards. The three judges, who together have served on some of the most consequential international tribunals of the last half-century and include a child survivor of Auschwitz and a former ICC judge, also call on North Korea to dismantle its gulag system and release the estimated 80,000-130,000 political prisoners.

Under established legal doctrine, including the principle of ‘command responsibility’ – hierarchical accountability, where superiors are held responsible for the criminal acts of their subordinates – the report includes evidence that demonstrates Kim Jong-un and other regime officials should be prosecuted for ten of the 11 crimes against humanity enumerated in the Rome Statute (the treaty establishing the ICC), including crimes committed by subordinates such as prison guards. The ten crimes are: murder, extermination, enslavement, forcible transfer, imprisonment, torture, sexual violence, persecution, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts.

Titled, Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Political Prisons,the report focuses on evidence of crimes against humanity committed in North Korea’s political prisons, which include systematic murder (including infanticide), torture, persecution of Christians, rape, forced abortions, starvation and overwork leading to countless deaths. Referenced in the report is highly detailed satellite imagery that, alongside testimony of defectors, debunks North Korea’s denial of the existence of its political prisons, described by Amnesty International as ‘very possibly home to some of the most appalling torture in the world’.

The Inquiry is an unofficial follow-up to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry (UN COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that, in 2014, published its findings on regime-wide human rights abuses.

During a day-long hearing held in Washington, DC in 2016, Chief Judge Navi Pillay and her fellow judges heard testimony from North Korean defectors, including a North Korean political prison guard and prison camp survivors. They provided graphic testimony of atrocities they witnessed or were subjected to in the political prisons, including accounts of:

  • prisoners tortured and killed on account of their religious affiliation, with officials instructed ‘to wipe out the seed of [Christian] reactionaries’;
  • a prisoner’s newborn baby, fed to guard dogs and killed;
  • an abortion induced by three men standing on a wooden plank placed on a pregnant prisoner’s stomach;
  • a female prisoner losing consciousness after enduring a beating designed to trigger premature labour, with prison officials killing her baby before she could regain consciousness;
  • a prisoner raped by a security officer, after which the officer pushed a wooden stick inside her vagina and beat her lower body, resulting in her death within a week;
  • the deliberate starvation, malnutrition, overwork and death of countless prisoners, including between 1,500-2,000 prisoners, mostly children, who are believed to have died each year from malnutrition in one camp alone, with many other prisoners beaten to death for failing to meet production quotas;
  • a soldier supervising a forced labour site rolling a log down a steep mountainside, killing ten prisoners as they were carrying logs up the mountain;
  • routine public executions of prisoners, carried out in front of both children and adults, designed to subdue the prison population;
  • the execution of starving prisoners found digging for edible plants on a mountainside; and
  • the beating to death of a prisoner for hiding stolen corn in his mouth.

Alongside personal testimonies, the Inquiry drew on other sources of evidence, including scholarly works, videos, transcripts, testimony provided to the UN COI, and the live testimony of two leading experts on North Korea’s network of political prisons and its political system, David Hawk and Kenneth Gause. These and other experts have written about North Korea’s longstanding policy of imprisoning the children, spouse, parents and other family members of a purported violator in order to eliminate the ‘seed’ of three generations of ‘class enemies’.

Following the hearing in December 2016, the Inquiry received a detailed affidavit from Mr Thae Yong-ho, North Korea’s former Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom, and its highest-ranking defector in recent years. Mr Thae’s detailed affidavit provided damning testimony about Kim Jong-un and regime officials, and their level of involvement in committing grave human rights abuses.

Among the nine recommendations made by Judges Pillay, Buergenthal and Harmon in the new report are:

  • the dismantlement of the DPRK political prison system and commitment to a new system of fair and transparent justice that affords proper due process to its citizens and acceptance of an international monitoring scheme that ensures the present political prison system remains dismantled;
  • the implementation of safeguards by UN member states to prevent the importation of products produced in the North Korean penal system; and
  • the adoption of carefully targeted, coordinated and multilateral sanctions against individuals deemed responsible for past or ongoing crimes against humanity in the DPRK.

Steven Kay QC, past Co-Chair of the IBA War Crimes Committee and the lead lawyer to present evidence of North Korea’s alleged crimes against humanity at the Inquiry, stated: ‘ North Korea’s network of political prisons has largely eluded the scrutiny of the international community over the decades but, as the number of North Korean defectors swells and accounts of brutal treatment carried out against prisoners are relayed to the outside world, it has become more difficult for the international community to avert its gaze.’ He added: ‘The international community should not be deterred from holding to account the perpetrators, from prison guards to those seated at the apex of power. We need to work to halt the seven-decade reign of impunity.

A discussion of the Inquiry’s findings will take place in Washington DC, today, 12 December, from 9:30am-10:45am at the National Press Club. For more information about the event and/or to register attendance please contact Sosseh Prom at [email protected].


Supplied by the International Bar Association (IBA)


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ICLB Member Activities International News Uncategorized Upcoming Events

Steven Kay QC Case Involving Liechtenstein Trust Company Featured in Article for Independent

Steven Kay QC Case Involving Liechtenstein Trust Company Featured in Article for Independent

A piece for the Independent website features a case currently being worked on by Steven Kay QC. It concerns a woman called Tamar Perry, who is involved in legal proceedings against a trust company based in Liechtenstein: the Lopag Trust. The article itself focuses on Liechtenstein’s role as a tax haven.

Ms Perry and her family have been unable to gain access to their fortune in the trust that was settled by her late father, an Israeli tycoon. Ms Perry believes the principal trustee: Dr Dieter Neupert, a Swiss lawyer, is responsible. Furthermore she suspects the directors of Lopag: Louis Oehri and Dominik Naeff to also be involved. According to the article Neupert denies the allegations and and the Lopag Trust have been limited in their responses to the claims.

The Liechtenstein court has concluded that neither Tamar Perry nor the other beneficiaries have any legal rights. Taking this into account, Ms Perry has secured the services of Steven Kay QC to help in her proceedings against Dieter Neupert, Oehri and Naeff.

Ms Perry told the Independent that: “I just want to warn people that if they are thinking of placing their assets in a trust registered in Liechtenstein, then they should run away as fast as possible because they will find that the trustees will become the beneficiaries.”

“Then the judge and Liechtenstein Trust committee will take the side of the trustees. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been set up in this way but I intend to be the last one. The lesson here is that you cannot always trust the trustees,” she added.

The article can be read in full on the Independent website, by accessing the link below:


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Text source: – 8th March 2018

ICLB Member Activities International News

ICT convicts A. Q. Molla of 5 charges and sentences him to life imprisonment

ICT convicts A. Q. Molla of 5 charges and sentences him to life imprisonment

On 5 February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (“ICT”) convicted Abdul Quader Molla of five counts and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He was tried on six counts, comprising murder and rape as a crimes against humanity, aiding and abetting the commission of such crimes and complicity in the committing of the offences.  He denied all charges.

Abdul Quader Molla was born on 14 August 1948 and will be turning 65 this year.  Prior to his arrest he was Assistant Secretary General of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh.  It is noteworthy that all of the people indicted and tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the ICT are members of Jamaat-e-Islami (“Jamaat”) and the Bangladesh National Party (“BNP”), the two major opposition parties to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League.

His sentence follows swiftly in the wake of the sentence of television preacher and former Jamaat party member Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was sentenced to death on 21 January 2013 following his trial and conviction in absentia of genocide against the Hindu community and various other criminal acts which were held to constitute “crimes against humanity” under Section 3(2) of the International Crimes Tribunal Act of 1973.

Speaking after the verdict, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam declared: “He deserved death sentence because of the gravity of the crimes.  But the judge gave him life imprisonment.”  He added that A. Q. Molla “had directly participated” in the killing of more than 350 people near Dhaka.

One of A. Q. Molla’s defence attorneys is reported to have said they would appeal the verdict as it was “politically motivated”.  Further, in a statement released to the press, Chief Defence Counsel, Mr Abdur Razzaq, wrote “In our view, there is not an iota of evidence on record to warrant a conviction of Abdul Quader Mollah, let alone a life imprisonment. The Prosecution has completely failed to establish the 6 charges against Abdul Quader Mollah. […] We will file an appeal against the judgment of the Tribunal. We believe that the judgment of the Tribunal will be completely reversed by the Supreme Court.”

Since the establishment of the ICT in 2010, a number of persons and organisations have criticised the Government of Bangladesh and the ICT for failing to protect fundamental human rights and to uphold international standards of fair trial and have called for the legal framework of the ICT to be amended in accordance with international standards. These have included among others the US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Stepen Rapp, Lord Avebury, Lord Carlile, the UN-OHCHR Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Bar Association, the UK Bar Human Rights Committee and the International Center for Transitional Justice and Amnesty International

The outcome of the trial has shaken the extremely fragile political situation in Bangladesh and inflamed ongoing protests in the capital and other major cities. Deutsche Welle reported that Jamaat ordered a general strike that shut down schools and shops and halted traffic in Dhaka. It warned it would resist “at any cost a government blueprint” to execute its leaders. According to the Bangladesh news agency, ATN News, supporters of Jamaat have exploded homemade bombs and clashed with police in parts of the capital, leaving several people injured.

A detailed summary of the judgment will follow shortly.


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