Seven investigations, three lawsuits launched on Diyarbakır Bar for Armenian Genocide Remembrance in last six years

Turkish prosecutors have launched seven investigations and filed three lawsuits against the Diyarbakır Bar Association for “insulting the state and its organs” over statements on the April 24 Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day for the last six years. 

Duvar English

Turkish prosecutors have launched seven investigations and filed three lawsuits against the Diyarbakır Bar Association administration since 2017 for Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), “Insulting the Turkish nation, state, government, Parliament, and its judicial bodiesi” for statements made during Armenian Genocide Remembrance Events.

The Media and Legal Studies Organization (MLSA) documented the Turkish state’s legal battle with the Bar Association of the southeastern Diyarbakır province over its stance on the Armenian genocide. 

A Diyarbakır prosecutor’s office most recently launched an investigation into chair Nahit Eren and ten executive board members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association regarding the statement “Confrontation and reconciliation must begin from 24 April 1915” published on the Bar Association website. 

The investigations for the TCK 301 require approval by the Justice Ministry. The ministry found that the remarks “Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were torn from their lands and were killed or left to die through the relocation supported and controlled by the Committee of Union and Progress,” warranted an investigation. 

The ministry however looked over the 2014 remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan included in the statement: “We wish that the Armenians who died due to conditions of the early 20th century rest in peace, and extend our condolences to their grandchildren.” 

The Bar Association interpreted the President’s remarks as “an important step to confront this dark history,” in their statement that is now subject to an investigation.

Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office called in the Bar Association executives for defense statements. The 11 bar officials rejected to give defenses and claimed that their statement fell under freedom of expression.

Deputy head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association Mehdi Özdemir said that the Justice Ministry allowed six investigations so far, four of which turned into lawsuits. The various Bar Association executives were acquitted in two of these cases. One case and two investigations are still ongoing. Özdemir stated another application to investigate the Bar Association’s 2023 Armenian Genocide statement had reached the Justice Ministry. 

Özdemir stated that the Penal Code Article 301 was infamously used to threaten everyone who voiced an opinion opposite to the official ideology of the government. He added, “We believe the enforced disappearances beginning with the 1915 Armenian Genocide and continuing with the 1937-38 Dersim Massacre are realities Turkey needs to face.”

“Unless we confront the truth, we cannot talk of real justice. We will continue defending this struggle for human rights as we honor our values and historical legacy,” said Özdemir.