Several newspapers announced earlier this month that a major complaint has been submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Turkey. A group of European legal experts compiled a massive file which included “witness testimonies giving details of torture, state sponsored kidnapping, and wrongful imprisonment” by the Turkish government of its 200,000 opponents.
Both the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had concluded that a large portion of the imprisonments and detentions by Turkey were a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. They are considered crimes against humanity. The new complaint was delivered to the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on February 9, but made public on March 1, 2023.
The 4,000-page dossier was prepared by the Belgian law firm Van Steenbrugge Advocaten, the Belgium-based NGO Turkey Tribunal, and the European judges association Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL).
“Turkish officials have committed crimes against humanity against hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Erdogan regime,” the submission said. “These crimes amount to a ‘widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population’, meeting the threshold for the ICC to launch proceedings against high-ranking officials of the Erdogan regime.”
Even though Turkey is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that had established the ICC, the Court has jurisdiction to pursue these crimes since the Turkish government has committed some of the crimes on the territory of 45 ICC member states: Afghanistan, Albania, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Peru, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Senegal, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, and Zambia.
The complaint states that there were 17 cases of enforced disappearance in which victims were abducted from Kenya, Cambodia, Gabon, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia and Switzerland and taken back to Turkey. These abductees were accused of being followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher. Pres. Erdogan supported Gulen for many years until their relationship soured. Thousands of Gulen’s followers, including 9,100 police officers, were subsequently fired from their jobs and arrested.