Former minister Johan Vande Lanotte, who now works for the law firm Van Steenbrugge Advocaten (VSA), filed a case against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity.
The Belgian law firm, alongside Belgium-based NGO Turkey Tribunal and MEDEL – an association of European judges and public prosecutors – provided evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) of crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Erdogan’s regime following a failed coup in 2016.
"Similar to Putin’s war in Ukraine, the war of the Turkish regime is also deliberately and proudly attacking the most fundamental principles of international law," Vande Lanotte said in a statement.
The lawyers estimate that some 200,000 people were tortured, disappeared, or incarcerated and convicted without due process. The alleged crimes included in the case not only took place in Turkey but in 45 other states under ICC jurisdiction (including Belgium).
In their communication, the various parties expressed for all people affected by the recent earthquakes in the country, of which the death toll has surpassed 45,000, but added that, nevertheless, "every violation of human rights and freedoms must have a response in terms of justice."
'End of democracy'
The lawyers and organisations argued that, after the attempted coup d’état, "the state of emergency and the end of democracy" resulted in a "massive and systematic violation of fundamental freedoms and rights."
MEDEL, which for years has repeatedly denounced the collapse of the rule of law in Turkey, pointed to arrests and detentions without legal basis and sentences imposed by local courts without respect for the minimum guarantees of due process.
The law firm collected detailed testimonies of 1,300 victims, and has systematically monitored allegations of human rights violations over time, which helped substantiate a "legal and factual analysis of the seriousness of facts, which can be qualified as crimes against humanity."
The case aims to give voice to the demand for justice coming from so many victims, which lawyers noted "cannot remain unaddressed," as well as to ensure that Turkish citizens are never again "deprived of the effective protection of fundamental rights and of the inherent guarantees in a State respecting the rule of law."
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Turkey itself does not recognise the ICC, as it is not a party to the ICC's Rome Statute, which establishes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression as the four core international crimes.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan will now have to assess whether to open an investigation, however, as the prosecution office receives hundreds of similar submissions from around the world every year, the start of such an investigation seems unlike, the Washington Post wrote.