Statement on situation of lawyers in Turkey
On this day, 5 April 2019 – celebrated as Lawyers’ Day in Turkey – 34 organizations, including Lawyers for Lawyers, take the opportunity to strongly condemn the ongoing crackdown against lawyers in Turkey. View the full statement here.
Following the failed coup d’état of 15 July 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and adopted a series of decree-laws that seriously undermined human rights and the rule of law across the country. Although the state of emergency was lifted in July 2018, many of the decree-laws were integrated into ordinary laws and the persecution of lawyers continues, including mass arrests, unfair trials and harsh sentences.
According to the latest information available, since July 2016:
▪ 1546 lawyers have been prosecuted;
▪ Almost 600 lawyers have been arrested;
▪ 274 lawyers have been sentenced to long prison terms – the average prison term being 7 years.
Lawyers are being targeted solely because they are carrying out their professional activities, on the basis of alleged accusations of supporting terrorist organisations. The use of “mass trials” against lawyers or lawyers’ associations is frequent and fundamental rights and procedural safeguards are often not respected.
As a recent example, in March 2019, 18 lawyers from the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) and the People’s Law Office (HHB) were sentenced to prison terms ranging from just over three years to just under 19 years. One lawyer has been convicted of “founding and managing a terrorist organisation” under Article 314-1 of the Turkish Penal Code, while all other defendants were found guilty of “belonging to a terrorist organisation” under Article 314-2 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Given the seriousness of the situation, attacks against Turkish lawyers were the focus of the 2019 Day of the Endangered Lawyer for the second time. The difficult situation facing lawyers in Turkey had already been highlighted during the Day of the Endangered Lawyer in 2012.
The undersigned organisations stress that the independence of the legal profession is an essential component in upholding the rule of law in a free society. Lawyers play a fundamental role in ensuring the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The 34 organisations urge the Turkish government to uphold the rule of law and bring an end to the persecution of lawyers. All lawyers who have been unduly detained for carrying out their professional activities should be immediately released.
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