Turkish Human Rights Lawyer Dies After Hunger Strike

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré (file photo)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré (file photo)

The death of Turkish human rights lawyer Ebru Timtik after a long hunger strike was entirely preventable, UN human rights experts* said Wednesday, calling on Turkey to release other human rights defenders.

“No one should have to die in pursuit of a fair trial; it is a fundamental human right,” they said. “This is an utter waste of a human life, and we are greatly dismayed at the death of this, courageous woman human rights defender, as well as the circumstances that led to her death.”

Ebru Timtik died on 27 August 2020 after three years in detention and a hunger strike lasting 238 days. Along with other lawyers from the People’s Law Office, she was arrested in September 2017 and sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison under the charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. She went on a hunger strike on 02 January 2020 claiming her right to a fair trial.

Shortly after the lawyers were arrested, the UN human rights experts formally asked the Turkish government to explain the legal basis for their arrest and the accusations against them.

The experts called for an effective investigation into her death. “We call on the authorities to establish an accountability process for the victim and to uphold fair trial principles by reopening the cases of arrested human rights lawyers. The Government of Turkey must also take immediate action to release individuals detained and sentenced contrary to international law.”


Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;

Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;

Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression;

Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;

Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism;

Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers;

Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women;

and Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur),Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), José Guevara Bermúdez, Seong-Phil Hong, Sètondji Adjovi, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

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Rakesh Raman