The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize for 2017 has been awarded to Judge Murat Arslan, a former Rapporteur of the Turkish Constitutional Court and President of the dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV) in Turkey.
– We congratulate Judge Murat Arslan with the prize. He is a strong supporter of the independence of the judiciary, says Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Arrested in 2016
– By giving him the prize, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe gives important support to an embattled institution. The Turkish judiciary is under immense political pressure, Ekeløve-Slydal continues.
Arslan was arrested on 26 October 2016 on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist organization in accordance with Article 314/2 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV) under Arslan’s presidency was also among the institutions, which were closed down.
The arrest was part of a wider crackdown on judges, academics, journalists, representatives of civil society organisations and other opponents of the government after a failed coup in July 2016.
– Arslan have a strong reputation as an honourable judge who stood against injustice his entire life. The government is undermining the country’s democratic infrastructure by arresting independent-minded judges like Arslan. In the end, it leads to further societal division and harms the society as a whole, says Ekelove-Slydal.
Two other shortlisted candidates, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and Austrian Jesuit priest Father Georg Sporschill, received diplomas.