Poland violated EU laws by logging in Biaowiea forest, court rules

Judge dismisses claims by Polish government that logging was necessary to protect ancient forest from outbreak of bark beetles

The EU’s highest court has ruled that Poland’s logging of the ancient Bialowieza forest is illegal, potentially opening the door to multi-million euro fines.

At least 10, 000 trees have been felled in Bialowieza, one of Europe’s last parcels of primeval woodland, since the former Polish environment minister, Jan Szyzko tripled logging limits there in 2016.

Government claims that the forest was bringing protected from a spruce beetle outbreak were rejected by European court of justice magistrates, who said that Poland’s own forest management plans showed that logging posed a greater threat to Bialowieza’s integrity.

A minimum fine of EUR4. 3m, potentially rising to EUR1 00,000 a day, could now be levied against Poland if the tree fells continue.

James Thornton, the chief executive of the green statute firm ClientEarth, told:” This is a huge victory for all defenders of Bialowieza forest. Hundreds of people were heavily engaged in saving this unique, ancient woodland from unthinkable demolition .”

More to follow .

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Google loses landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ case

Businessman wins legal action to force removal of search results about past conviction

A businessman has won his legal action to remove search results about war criminals conviction in a landmark” right to be forgotten” occurrence that could have wide-ranging repercussions.

The ruling was make use of Mr Justice Warby in London on Friday. The magistrate repudiated a similar claim brought by a second industrialist who was jailed for a more serious offence.

The claimant who lost, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990 s; the claimant who won, known as NT2, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications. NT1 was jailed for four years, while NT2 was jailed for six months.

Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added:” It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that .”

Both men demanded that Google remove search results mentioning the cases for which they were convicted. These include links to web pages published by a national newspaper and other media. Google refused their request and the men took the company to the high court.

The decision in NT2′ s favour could have implications for other convicted crooks and those who want embarrassing narratives about them erased from the web. Warby ruled out any injuries payment, however.

Explaining his decision, the judge said NT1 continued to mislead the public, whereas NT2 had shown repentance. He also took into account the submission that NT2′ s conviction did not fear actions taken by him in relation to” consumers, clients or investors”, but rather in relation to the intrusion of privacy of third parties.

” There is not[ a] plausible suggestion … that there is a risk that this wrongdoing will be repeated by the claimant. The datum is of scant if any apparent relevance to any record-keeping activities that he seems likely to engage in ,” the magistrate added.

He said his key conclusion in its relationship with NT2′ s claim was that” the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability “.

In the case of NT1, however, the judge was scathing about the claimant’s stance since leaving prison.” He has not accepted his remorse, has misled the public and this court, and depicts no compunction over any of these matters ,” he said.

” He remains in business, and the information serves the purpose of minimising the risk that he will continue to misinform, as he has in the past. Delisting would not erase the information from the record wholly, but it would make it much harder to find .”

In 2014 the European court of justice( ECJ) ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. Since then, Google has received requests to remove at the least 2.4 m connections from search results. Search engine firms can repudiate applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy.

At a high court hearing in February, Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing NT1, told the high court that the visibility of the articles on the search engine caused” distress and upset” to his client.

Tomlinson, who is also chairman of the press regulation campaign group Hacked Off, told the court the businessman was not a public figure and now made a living from commercial lending and funding a property developer.

” Before anyone gratifies a new person these days they Google them ,” Tomlinson told. He added that many people engaged in misdeeds when they were young and if the misdeeds were constantly brought to the attention of others then they would permanently have a negative effect.

NT1′ s sentence was now expend, Tomlinson continued, and the law was designed to allow for the rehabilitation of wrongdoers so they could go on to lead normal lives.

But Antony White QC, representing Google, argued the ECJ’s” right to be forgotten” ruling was ” not a right to rewrite history or … tailor your past if that’s what this claimant would like to use it for “.

White said the business malpractice that gave rise to NT1′ s sentence was ” serious and sustained “.

NT2, in a separate hearing, also argued that his conviction was legally spent and he therefore had a right to be forgotten. Google defied taking down search results linking to articles including reports on his financial affairs, his conviction and interviews given by him several years later containing his account of the circumstances surrounding his conviction.

A Google spokesperson said:” We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful info. We are pleased that the court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgments they have built in this case .”

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Facebooks tracking of non-users ruled illegal again

Another blow for Facebook in Europe: Magistrates in Belgium have once again ruled the company transgressed privacy statutes by deploying technology such as cookies and social plug-ins to track internet users across the web.

Facebook utilizes data it collects in this way to sell targeted ad.

The social media giant failed to make it sufficiently clear how people’s digital activity was being used, the court ruled.

Facebook faces fines of up to EUR1 00 million (~$ 124 million ), at a rate of EUR2 50,000 per day, if it fails to comply with the court ruling to stop tracking Belgians’ web browsing habits. It must also destroy any illegally obtained data, the court said.

Facebook expressed disappointment at the judgement and said it will appeal.

“The cookies and pixels we use are industry standard technologies and enable hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow their businesses and reach customers across the EU, ” said Facebook’s VP of public policy for EMEA, Richard Allan, in a statement. “We require any business that uses our technologies to provide clear notice to end-users, and we give people the right to opt-out of having data collected on sites and apps off Facebook being used for ads.”

The privacy lawsuit dates back to 2015 when the Belgium privacy watchdog brought a civil suit against Facebook for its near invisible tracking of non-users via social plug-ins and the like. This followed an investigation by the agency that culminated in a highly critical report touching on many areas of Facebook’s data handling practices.

The same year, after failing to obtain adequate responses to its concerns, the Belgian Privacy Commission decided to take Facebook to tribunal over one of them: How it deploys tracking cookies and social plug-ins on third-party websites to track the internet activity of users and non-users.

Following its usual playbook for European privacy challenges, Facebook first tried to argue the Belgian DPA had no jurisdiction over its European business, which is headquartered in Ireland. But local magistrates disagreed.

Subsequently, Belgian courts have twice ruled that Facebook’s use of cookies contravenes European privacy laws. If Facebook keeps appealing, the occurrence could end up going all the way to Europe’s supreme court, the CJEU.

The crux of the questions here is the permeating background surveillance of internet activity for digital ad targeting intents which is enabled by a vast network of embedded and at times entirely invisible tracking technologies — and, specifically in this lawsuit, whether Facebook and the network of partner companies feeding data into its ad targeting systems have obtained adequate permission from their users to be so surveilled when they’re not actually use Facebook.

“Facebook collects information about us all when we surf the Internet, ” explains the Belgian privacy watchdog, referring to findings from its earlier investigation of Facebook’s use of tracking technologies.To this end, Facebook utilizes various technologies, such as the famous’ cookies’ or the’ social plug-ins’( for example, the’ Like’ or’ Share’ buttons) or the’ pixels’ that are invisible to the naked eye. It uses them on its website but also and especially on the websites of third parties. Thus, the survey reveals that even if you have never entered the Facebook domain, Facebook is still able to follow your browsing behaviour without you knowing it, let alone, without you wanting it, thanks to these invisible pixels that Facebook has placed on more than 10,000 other sites.”

Facebook asserts its use of cookie tracking is transparent and argues the technology benefits Facebook users by letting it show them more relevant content.( Presumably, it would argue non-Facebook users “benefit” from being indicated ads targeted at their interests .) “Over recent years we have worked hard to help people is how we use cookies to maintain Facebook secure and show them relevant content. We’ve constructed squads of people who focus on the protection of privacy — from engineers to designers — and tools that give people choice and control, ” told Allan in his response statement to the court ruling.

But given that some of these trackers are literally invisible, coupled with the at times dubious quality of “consents” being gathered — say, for example, if there’s merely a pre-ticked opt-in at the lower end of a lengthy and opaque set of T& Cs that actively discourage the user from reading and understanding what data supplied by theirs is being gathered and why — there are some serious questions over the sustainability of this type of “pervasive background surveillance” adtech in the face of successful legal challenges and growing consumer antipathy of ads that stalk them around the internet( which has in turn fueled growth of ad-blocking technologies ).

Facebook will face a similar complaint in a suit in Austria, filed by privacy campaigner and lawyer Max Schrems, for example. In January Schrems prevailed against Facebook’s attempts to stall the lawsuit after Europe’s top tribunal threw out the company’s claim that his campaigning activities cancelled out his individual consumer rights.( Though the CJEU’s decision did not allow Schrems to seek a class action style lawsuit against Facebook as he had originally hoped .)

Europe also has a major update to its data protection laws coming in May, “ve called the” GDPR, which beefs up the enforcement of privacy rights by introducing a new system of penalties for data protection violations that they are able scale as high as 4 percent of a company’s global turnover.

Essentially, GDPR means that ignoring the European Union’s fundamental right to privacy — by relying on the fact that few customers have historically bothered to take companies to tribunal over legal violations they may not even realize are occur — is going to get a lot more risky in just a few months’ time.( On that front, Schrems has crowdfunded a not-for-profit to pursue strategic privacy litigation once GDPR is in place — so start stockpiling the popcorn .)

It’s also worth noting that GDPR strengthens the EU’s consent requirements for processing personal data — so it’s certainly not going to be easier for Facebook to obtain consents for this type of background tracking under the new framework.( The still being formulated ePrivacy Regulation is also relevant to cookie permission, and aims to streamline the rules across the EU .)

And indeed, such tracking will necessarily become far more visible to web users, who may then be a lot less inclined to agree to being ad-stalked almost everywhere they go online chiefly for Facebook’s fiscal benefit.

The rise of tools offering tracker blocking offers another route for irate consumers to thwart online mass surveillance by ad targeting giants.

“We are preparing for the new General Data Protection Regulation with our result regulator the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. We’ll comply with this new law, just as we’ve complied with existing data protection statute in Europe, ” added Facebook’s Allan.

It’s still not fully clear how Facebook will comply with GDPR — though it’s announced a new global privacy situates hub is coming. It’s also running a series of data protection workshops in Europe this year, aimed at small and medium businesses — presumably to try to ensure its advertisers don’t find themselves shut out of GDPR Compliance City and on the hook for major privacy legal liabilities themselves, come May 25.

Of course Facebook’s ad business not only relies on people’s web browsing habits to fuel its targeting systems, it relies on advertisers liberally pumping dollars in. Which is another reason consumer trust is so vital. Yet Facebook is facing myriad challenges on that front these days.

In a statement on its website, the Belgium Privacy Commission said it was pleased with the ruling.

“We are of course very satisfied that the court has fully followed our position. For the moment, Facebook is conducting a major advertising campaign where it shares its attachment to privacy. We hope he will put this commitment into practice, ” it told.

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Rodrigo Duterte to pull Philippines out of international criminal court

President accuses ICC of crusade against him after it opened inquiry into his war on drugs

Rodrigo Duterte is to withdraw the Philippines from the international criminal court after it opened a crimes against humanity investigation into his brutal war on drugs.

In a lengthy statement, the Philippines chairman accused the ICC and the UN of a crusade against him, denouncing what he described as” baseless, unprecedented and outrageous assaults on my person “.

” I therefore declare and forthwith give notice, as president of the republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome statute[ the treaty that established the ICC] effective immediately ,” said Duterte.

The ICC announced last month it was investigating allegations that Duterte had committed crimes against humanity in his war on drugs, which has killed an estimated 8,000 people since he took office in May 2016.

Duterte initially said he welcomed the chance to defend his name. But on Wednesday he said the ICC had shown a” brazen ignorance of the law” and claimed that the Rome statute was fraudulently implemented in the Philippines to begin with and therefore not” effective or enforceable “.

Philippine legislators satisfied the proclamation with scorn and rage. Congressman Antonio Tino said the move was ” utterly self-serving and driven by sheer panic at the prospect of a trial before the ICC for criminal offences against humanity related to his murderous war on narcotics “. Tino added:” Saving his own scalp has taken precedence over the long-term commitment made by the Philippines state to human rights .”

Kabataan party representative Sarah Elago said it showed that” Duterte intends to impose his fascist and tyrannical propensities even against international critics “.

” Only the guilty become too eager to run away from prosecution ,” Elago added.” If indeed he wants to prove his innocence, what better platform than a court ?”

Relations between the Philippines and the international community have become increasingly antagonistic in recent weeks. Last week, the department of justice included a UN special rapporteur on a listing of people declared to be communist terrorists. In response, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, told Duterte” needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination “.

In his statement on Monday, Duterte told Hussein’s comments were clear evidence of” international bias” and that the ICC was ” being utilised as a political tool against the Philippines “.

He also described the ICC’s inquiry- which involves looking into a 77 -page report submitted to it last year that allegedly documents Duterte’s crimes against humanity going back to 1988 when he was mayor of Davao- as” unduly and maliciously generated “.

When the Philippines ratified the Rome statute in 2011- nine years after it came into force- it was seen as a big step forward for human rights in Asia. The country’s withdrawal will be seen as a jolt for international accountability of the states of the region. The ICC, based in The Hague, is the world’s only permanent international tribunal that looks into war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Duterte has stimulated his contempt for the ICC well-known in the past, calling it “bullshit”, ” hypocritical” and “useless”, but in his statement on Wednesday, he went further, accusing the court of violating its own due process and depriving him of the interests of innocence until proven guilty.

Should the ICC’s preliminary investigations find evidence of crimes against humanity, the Philippines’ sudden withdrawal from the statute would not protect Duterte from being put on trial. A country’s withdrawal from the ICC takes effect a year after the UN has received the application and article 127 of the Rome statute specifies that” withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the court in connection with criminal investigations “.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s south-east Asia director, described Duterte’s move as misguided and deeply regrettable.” Powerful people in the Philippines are more interested in covering up their own potential accountability for killings than they are in ensuring justice for the many victims of the country’s brutal war on medications ‘,” Gomez said.

There are 139 countries signed up to the Rome statute, but with some powerful exceptions. The US signed the treaty in 2000 but never ratified it, citing fears over sovereignty, similarly with Russia. Israel signed it for a short period but also never ratified it into law.

Should the UN accept Duterte’s withdrawal, it would build the Philippines only the second country to withdraw from the Rome statute, following Burundi in 2017. South Africa attempted to leave in 2016, but its withdrawal was revoked by the UN.

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Jeff Sessions says US prosecutors will not pursue small-time marijuana cases

Law enforcement lacks resources to take on routine cases and will focus on gangs and larger conspiracies, attorney general says

Federal attorneys will not take over small-time marijuana suits, despite the Trump justice department’s decision to lift an Obama-era policy that discouraged authorities from cracking down on the trade in countries where the drug is legal, Jeff Sessions, the us attorney general, said on Saturday.

Federal law enforcement lacks the resources to take over” routine lawsuits” and will continue to focus on gangs and larger conspiracies, Sessions told students after a speech at Georgetown law school.

In January, the Trump administration hurled the burgeoning marijuana legalization motion into uncertainty by reversing the largely hands-off approach of the Obama administration, saying federal prosecutors should instead handle marijuana suits however they see fit.

The Obama-era policy permitted the trade to flourish, with eight countries decriminalize marijuana for recreational use.

The reversal under Trump added to embarrassment about whether it’s OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where it is legal, since long-standing federal statute prohibits it. And it caused concern that prosecutors would feel empowered to jail someones for marijuana possession.

” I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States statute ,” Sessions said. But, he added, federal prosecutors” haven’t been working small marijuana instances before, they are not going to be working them now “.

Of particular interest are problems that federal authorities have tried for years to tackle, such as illegal marijuana-growing operations on national parklands and gangs that peddle marijuana along with most harmful drugs.

Some law enforcement officers in legal nations argue the legal trade has caused unintended problems like black-market marijuana growing and dealing by people who don’t even try to conform to the legal framework.

It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will seek to punish state-sanctioned industries. Some have indicated they have no plans to do so.

” Those are the kinds of things each one of those US attorneys will decide how to handle ,” Sessions said.

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‘Attacks and killings’: human rights activists at growing risk, study claims

Research proves 34% rise in attacks against campaigners defending land, surrounding and labour rights in the face of corporate activity

Human rights defenders who challenge big corporations are being killed, assaulted, harassed and squelched in growing numbers, researchers have claimed.

A survey by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center recorded a 34% global rise in attacks against human rights activists last year, including 120 alleged murders and hundreds of other cases involving menaces, assaults and intimidation. The number of incidents were found to have risen sharply, with 388 attacks recorded in 2017 compared with 290 the previous year.

The research focused on attacks against activists involved in protests against corporate activities. Victims included unionists, protests, whistleblowers and indigenous communities.

Land rights defenders and activists linked to the mining, agribusiness and renewable energy sectors were found to be in greatest hazard. The researchers also highlighted an increased risk to lawyers, and to members of human rights and environmental civil society organisations working for corporate accountability.

In 42% of harassment instances, judicial intimidation was used in an attempt to suppress protests against record-keeping activities. This included arbitrary detention, criminalisation and aggressive lawsuits.

The Business and Human Rights Center found that companies involved in mining, agriculture, energy and construction- particularly those headquartered in the UK, US, China, Canada and France- were the most likely to use legal means in an attempt to prevent human rights protests.

” Our research highlights that companies do play a significant role in assaults on human rights defenders- the first time that this data has were consistently collected ,” said Ana Zbona from the Business and Human Rights Resource Center.

The researchers found that human rights defenders creating concerns about business operations are often criminalised on fabricated charges. Documented suits include activists accused of being involved in assassinations in Guatemala, arson attacks in Chile, and fraud and tax evasion in Turkmenistan, Russia and Azerbaijan.

” Judicial harassment deters communities, workers and activists from speaking out against corporate abuse. Legal harassment often forms part of a broader campaign which are able to include physical attacks and killings ,” said Zbona.

” Impunity from the nation and the declining strength of unions has a big role to play, as well as a growing competition for natural resources that is only gaining pace .”

Although assaults occurred in every region across the world, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines- which collectively accounted for 212 of all incidents- were identified as the countries where attacks were most probable.

Last week, the International Council on Mining and Metals acknowledged that attacks on human rights defenders were on the increase and called on relevant government authorities to take action.

” Defenders continue to face harassment and dread for their safety when they speak out ,” members of the council said in a statement.” This is deeply concerning for companies that are committed to human rights, openness and transparency. While we may not always agree with postures taken by human rights defenders, ICMM recognises freedom of expression and assembly as fundamental human rights .”

Last month, a report by Frontline Defenders said that in 2017 there was a” well resourced and coordinated strategy of libel, criminalisation and violence deployed to intimidate, marginalise and stillnes human rights defenders “.

The group received reports on the murder of 312 rights defenders in 27 countries.

” In 2017 the alarming rise in attacks is just a continuation of what has become a very open and very aggressive attack on civil society and anyone who advocates against or challenges corporate power ,” said Katie Redford, director of EarthRights International, a civil society group that provides legal assistance to human and environmental rights activists.

Case studies

On 24 January 2018, Quintin Salgado, a labour activist and leader of the Los Mineros employees union, was attacked and killed by unknown assailants. Salgado had been working with striking miners at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico, owned by Canadian mining company Torex Gold. Employees have been striking since November 2017 in an effort to secure better working conditions and the right to freedom of association. Salgado, a former worker at the mine, was the third person involved in the ten-strikes to be killed. In a statement following the murder, Torex Gold said:” The Company has no way of knowing who was behind the killed. It is our understanding that Mr Salgado was well known to authorities and that the investigation continues. It is genuinely sad that Los Mineros and their supporting unions have chosen to exploit these human tragedies to further their political agendas .”

On 9 January, Ronald David Barillas, a member of the Xinca indigenous parliament, was killed in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. Barillas, a vocal critic of the sugar agroindustry, had opposed the Escobal mining project, owned by Canadian firm Tahoe Resources. In a statement, the mining company said:” As an open, transparent and statute biding company, we will cooperate with authorities as requested. We are committed to the search for truth, strengthening the rule of law, and the fight against impunity in Guatemala … We recognise human rights activists are particularly vulnerable to violence and persecution. We denounce any tries by others to threaten, frighten, or attack each member of community activism groups or human rights organization .”

Attorneys in Cambodia are seeking criminal charges and pre-trial detention for three prominent human rights defenders, Moeun Tola, Pa Nguon Teang and Buddhist monk Venerable But Buntenh. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison.

Last month, palm oil company Socfinand its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm began defamation proceedings in Paris against two NGOs, Sherpa and ReAct, and French media outlets Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point, over reporting of protests by farmers living near plantations run by the two companies. Socfin is part-owned by French conglomerate Bollore, one of the world’s largest companies. Sherpa claims that, collectively, Socfin and Bollore have launched more than 20 libel suits against 40 journalists, NGOs and media organisations since 2009.

Latin American countries sign legally binding pact to protect land defenders

New treaty obliges states to investigate and punish killings and attacks on people defending their land or environment

Officials from 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries have signed a legally binding environmental rights pact containing measures to protect land defenders, almost two years to the day since environmental leader Berta Caceres was killed in her home in Honduras.

Last year almost 200 nature protectors were killed across the world, 60% of them in Latin America. The new treaty obliges the countries to” ensure a safe and enabling surrounding for people, groups and organisations that promote and defend human rights in environmental matters “.

It obligates strong measures to protect national environmental defenders from threats or assault- and analyse and punish these whenever they result. And it codifies the rights of environmental defenders” to life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expres, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement .”

The 2016 killing of Caceres, a win of the Goldman environmental prize, focused attention on the killings of environmental and land rights activists in the region. Her demise was one of 14 such deaths recorded in Honduras that year in a collaboration between the Guardian and NGO Global Witness, inducing the country one of the deadliest in the world for environmental activists. In a sign of progress, though, the number of killings fell in 2017 and two days before the new pact was agreed, Honduran authorities arrested a former military intelligence officer for masterminding Caceres’s killing.

Costa Rica’s president, Luis Guillermo Solis, described the treaty as” a turning point” in the fight against poverty, inequality and hate.” It is also crucial for the very survival of our species ,” he said.” The right to a healthy surrounding is a human right .”

Carole Excell, the environmental democracy director of the World Resource Institute, described the new protocol as” an historical stand to safeguard the backbone of environmental protection “.

In Brazil, where 49 environmental defenders were killed in 2016, a statement by Fundacao Grupo Esquel Brasil and the Article 19 campaign said:” A legally binding agreement is critical for us to protect our land and environmental defenders who will now have greater access to the rights enshrined in this convention.

” The treaty may help Brazil to reverse the trend of regressive environmental laws .”

The agreement is formally called the Latin American and Caribbean countries declaration on Principle 10( LAC-P1 0 ). Emerging from the UN’s Rio +20 seminar on sustainable development in 2012, it covers access to environmental datum, justice and public participation in decision making.

” I cannot understate how critical it is for communities to have access to environmental datum, like data on local water pollution or nearby mining concessions ,” Excell said.” LAC-P1 0 is designed not only to protect environmental defenders, but also to make it easier for people to get information, participate in decision-making that will affect their lives and hold powerful interests to account .”

The treaty, which was stewarded by Chile, Costa Rica and Panama, also guarantees the right to a healthy surrounding and impels states to establish transparency bodies to monitor, report and oversee compliance with the new regulations.

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An open letter to President Erdoan from 38 Nobel laureates | JM Coetzee, Kazuo Ishiguro, Svetlana Alexievich and others

Until Turkey frees detained writers and returns to the rule of law, it cannot claim to be a member of the free world, writes JM Coetzee, Kazuo Ishiguro, Svetlana Alexievich and others

Dear President Erdogan,

We wish to draw your attention to the damage being done to the Republic of Turkey, to its reputation and the dignity and wellbeing of its citizens, through what leading authorities on freedom of expression deem to be the unlawful detention and wrongful conviction of writers and thinkers.

In a Memorandum on the Freedom of Expression in Turkey( 2017 ), Nils Muiznieks, then Council of Europe commissioner for Human Rights, warned 😛 TAGEND

” The space for democratic debate in Turkey has shrunk alarmingly following increased judicial harassment of large strata of society, including journalists, members of parliament, academics and ordinary citizens, and government action which has reduced pluralism and led to self-censorship. This deterioration came about in a so difficult context, but neither the attempted takeover , nor other terrorist threats faced by Turkey, can justify measures that contravene media freedom and disavow the rule of law to such an extent.

” The authorities should urgently change course by overhauling criminal legislation and practice, redevelop judicial freedom and reaffirm their commitment to protect free speech .”

There is no clearer example of the commissioner’s concern that the detention in September 2016of Ahmet Altan, a bestselling novelist and columnist; Mehmet Altan, two brothers, professor of economics and essayist; and Nazli Ilicak, a prominent journalist- all as part of a wave of apprehends following the failed July 2016 coup. These writers were charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence or force. The prosecutors originally wanted to charge them with dedicating” subliminal messages” to coup supporters while appearing on a television panel show. The ensuing tide of public ridicule stimulated them change that accusation to using rhetoric” evocative of a takeover “. Indeed, Turkey’s official Anatolia News Agency called the occurrence” The Coup Evocation Trial “.

As noted in the commissioner’s report, the evidence considered by the judge in Ahmet Altan’s case was limited to a narrative dating from 2010 in Taraf newspaper( of which Ahmet Altan had been the editor-in-chief until 2012 ), three of his op-ed columns and a TV appearance. The proof against the other defendants was equally insubstantial. All these novelists had spent their careers opposing coups and militarism of any kind, and yet were charged with aiding an armed terrorist organisation and staging a coup.

The commissioner ensure the detainees and prosecution of Altan brothers as part of a broader pattern of repression in Turkey against those expressing dissent or criticism of the authorities concerned. He considered such detentions and prosecutions to have contravened the rights and undermined the rule of law. David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expres, concurred and dubbed the legal proceedings a” display trial “.

Turkey’s own constitutional court concurred with this criticism. On 11 January this year, it ruled that Mehmet Altan and fellow journalist Sahin Alpay’s rights were being violated by pre-trial detention, and that they should be released. Yet the first-degree tribunals refused to implement the higher constitutional court’s decision, thus placing the justice system in criminal violation of the constitution. Mr President, you must surely be concerned that the lower criminal court’s defiance and this non-legal decision was backed by the spokesperson of your government.

On 16 February 2018, the Altan brothers and Ilicak were sentenced to aggravated life sentences, foreclosing them from any prospect of a future amnesty.

President Erdogan, we the undersigned share the following sentiment of David Kaye:” The tribunal decision condemning journalists to aggravated life in prison for the performance of their duties, without presenting substantial proof of their involvement in the takeover endeavor or ensuring a fair trial, critically threatens journalism and with it the remnants of freedom of expression and media freedom in Turkey “.

In April 1998, you yourself were stripped of your position as mayor of Istanbul, banned from political office, and sentenced to prison for 10 months, for reciting a poem during a public speech in December 1997 through the same article 312 of the penal code. This was unjust, unlawful and cruel. Many human rights organisations- which defended you then- are appalled at the violations now occurring in your country. Amnesty International, PEN International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Article 19, and Reporters Without Perimeters are among those who resist the recent tribunal decision.

During a rite in honor of Cetin Altan, on 2 February 2009, you proclaimed publicly that” Turkey is no longer the same old Turkey who used to sentence its great writers to prison- this epoch is run for ever .” Among the audience were Cetin Altan’s two sons: Ahmet and Mehmet. Then nine years later, they are sentenced to life; isn’t that a fundamental contradiction?

Under these circumstances, we voice the fears of many inside Turkey itself, of its friends and of the multilateral organisations of which it is a member. We call for the abrogation of the state of emergency, a quick return to the rule of law and for full freedom of speech and expres. Such a move would result in the speedy acquittal on appeal of Ms Ilicak and the Altan friends, and the immediate release of others wrongfully incarcerated. Better still, it would attain Turkey again a proud is part of the free world.

* Full list of Nobel laureate signatories 😛 TAGEND

Svetlana Alexievich, Philip W Anderson, Aaron Ciechanover, JM Coetzee, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Elias J Corey, Gerhard Ertl, Albert Fert, Edmond H Fischer, Andrew Z Fire, Andre Geim, Sheldon Glashow, Serge Haroche, Leland H Hartwell, Oliver Hart, Richard Henderson, Dudley Herschbach, Avram Hershko, Roald Hoffmann, Robert Huber, Tim Hunt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Elfriede Jelinek, Eric S Maskin, Hartmut Michel, Herta Muller, VS Naipaul, William D Phillips, John C Polanyi, Richard J Roberts, Randy W Schekman, Wole Soyinka, Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas C Sudhof, Jack W Szostak, Mario Vargas Llosa, J Robin Warren, Eric F Wieschaus

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YouTube star wins damages in landmark UK ‘revenge porn’ case

Chrissy Chambers proposes to her new partner after winning civil claim against ex who posted videos online

Mass protests force Ethiopia to free opposition leader

Bekele Gerba and seven other political figures suddenly cleared of charges and let out of jail after being arrested in 2015