A panel of European legal experts submitted a dossier to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing the Turkish government of committing crimes against humanity in the persecution of opponents around the world.
The Turkey Tribunal, established in 2020 by lawyers and human rights activists, say some 200,000 people have been impacted by torture, state-sponsored kidnapping, and wrongful imprisonment.
While Turkey is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the Turkey Tribunal says the alleged crimes fall within its jurisdiction as at least part of the acts in question were committed on the territory of ICC member states.
The dossier to be delivered to the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, includes 17 cases of enforced disappearance, in which victims were abducted from countries such as Kenya, Cambodia, and Switzerland and taken back to Turkey.
Johan Vande Lanotte, a former Belgian deputy prime minister and human rights law professor who helped set up the tribunal, is leading the effort to persuade the ICC to investigate. The allegations amount to a violation of universal basic principles of international law, Lanotte said, adding that the ICC should take action where other bodies have failed.
There is precedent for the ICC to investigate crimes of a non-signatory state, according to the tribunal. In 2019, the ICC launched an investigation into Myanmar for the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, despite Myanmar not recognising the court’s authority.
Two million citizens of Turkey have faced terrorism charges since 2015, the group said in a petition addressing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkey’s justice minister. More than 512,000 people have been prosecuted and some 320,000 convicted in the same period, with 131,000 people facing imprisonment. There are more than 30,000 people behind bars on terrorism offences, including sick, elderly, disabled and underage citizens.
“We therefore ask the Justice and Development Party government to stop mass arrests and end all other human rights violations and not to further compromise democracy, justice and the rule of law,” the group said in the petition.