THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Turkish judge assigned to a United Nations war crimes panel has been detained by Turkish authorities in the aftermath of a failed coup in July, despite having diplomatic immunity, a senior judge said Wednesday.
The president of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, Theodor Meron, told the United Nations General Assembly that Judge Aydin Sefa Akay was detained around Sept. 21 "in relation to allegations connected to the events of July 2016 directed against the constitutional order of Turkey."
The mechanism is an organization that was established to deal with residual legal issues and appeals stemming from cases heard by the U.N. tribunals that dealt with atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Akay is a member of a five-judge panel assigned in July to review the judgment of Augustin Ngirabatware, a former Rwandan planning minister. Ngirabatware was sentenced on appeal to 30 years for inciting, instigating, aiding and abetting genocide as over 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists in 1994.
Meron said U.N. legal officials have asked Turkey to immediately release Akay and to halt any proceedings against him, but so far not received a response. He said he asked in vain for permission to visit Akay himself.
"Absent clear understanding of his conditions of detention, and a response to my request for authorization to visit Judge Akay, my concern for my judicial colleague's welfare from a humanitarian standpoint likewise becomes all the stronger," Meron said.
Turkey has arrested almost 37,000 people and dismissed or suspended over 100,000 personnel from government jobs since the failed coup in July that left over 270 people dead.
Opposition parties, human rights groups and international allies have criticized Ankara for using the failed coup as a pretext to clamp down not only on alleged coup plotters, but on all government critics, including pro-Kurdish and left-wing individuals and media outlets.