UN tribunal orders Turkish government to release detained judge

January 31, 2017 8:25 pm

Theodor Meron, the presiding judge at the Unites Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

The United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) has ordered ’s government to release by February 14 a Turkish diplomat who has been serving as a judge in the tribunal’s hearing on the Rwandan genocide.
MICT presiding judge, Theodor Meron, said in a statement on Tuesday that Ankara must release from prison Judge Aydin Sefa Akay and allow him to attend an appeals hearing involving Augustin Ngirabatware, a former Rwandan minister who has been found guilty of inciting the 1994 genocide.
Meron said in his ruling that Akay, as a diplomat, enjoys immunity and his arrest over an alleged role in the July 2016 coup attempt was in violation of the ’s judicial independence.
Turkish authorities have accused Akay of having links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States, who Ankara blames for the failed coup on July 15.
Both Akay and Gulen have denied any involvement in the coup attempt, which prompted Turkey to detain more than 41,000 people and discharge over 110,000 more from their jobs.
Meron said in its Tuesday ruling that Turkey should cease all legal proceedings against Akay and “take all necessary measures to ensure his release… no later than 14 February.”

Aydin Sefa Akay, a Turkish diplomat who has been serving as a judge in the Unites Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals’ hearing on the Rwandan genocide

“Diplomatic immunity” for judges, Meron said, “is a cornerstone of an independent international judiciary, as envisaged by the .”
He added that the ruling was binding on Turkey under UN Security Council Resolution 1966, which requires all states to comply with the rulings of UN courts.
The MICT, based in The Hague, has replaced tribunals that tried crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars and the Rwandan genocide. The court had earlier this month called on Turkey to allow Akay to attend Ngirabatware’s appeal hearing, but authorities in Ankara reportedly sent back documents that the MICT had submitted to Turkish embassies in Tanzania and The Hague. The MICT said the documents were marked “Return to Sender” when the court received them.
Ngirabatware is sentenced to three decades in jail and is currently serving his term in Tanzania. The MICT has rejected a request by the Rwandan politician to be released until the dispute with Turkey is resolved.
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