ICC urged to probe Turkish 'crimes' against opponents
Torture, enforced disappearance, wrongful detention, and persecution of almost 200,000 opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are alleged in the case brought to the Hague-based court.
Rights lawyers said Wednesday they had directed the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged crimes against humanity by the Turkish government targeting opponents globally.
Torture, enforced disappearance, wrongful detention, and persecution of almost 200,000 opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are alleged in the case brought before the Hague-based court.
Although Turkey is not a party to the ICC, the lawyers argue that Turkish officials can be investigated for alleged crimes against 1,300 victims on the territory of the 45 member countries.
Former Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Johan Vande Lanotte, a law professor involved in the submission, said at a press conference in The Hague that he hoped the ICC would take up the matter.
"Important members of the (Turkish) government cannot deny they are responsible, because they proclaimed their responsibility proudly," he said.
While any individual or group may submit a complaint to the ICC prosecutor, the court is not required to conduct an inquiry.
It is worth noting that the case was filed in February, but it was not made public until Wednesday due to the deadly February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
"Turkish officials have committed crimes against humanity against hundreds of thousands of opponents of the Erdogan regime," said the communication submitted to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan.
Khan "must now consider whether the court will open the investigations with a possible result that high-ranking officials of a NATO ally could be" implicated, it said.
The filing was inked by a Belgian law firm representing a number of victims, a "Turkey tribunal" held in Geneva in 2021, and a European group of judges and prosecutors.
The 1,300 cases highlighted in the complaint all include people tied to Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan blames for a failed military coup in 2016.
It acknowledged 17 alleged forced disappearances in which persons were kidnapped and transferred to Turkey from Albania, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Gabon, Kenya, Moldova, Mongolia, and Switzerland.
The alleged persecution includes the closure of Turkish schools overseas, affecting 522 teachers and their families, as well as the withdrawal of 206 people's passports.
Attorneys pointed to the ICC's ongoing investigation into non-member Myanmar as an example of how Turkey could be held accountable.
The court said it had jurisdiction in the Myanmar situation because it affects Rohingya Muslims in neighboring Bangladesh, which is a signatory to the ICC.