Turkey Joint letter for Turkish lawyers
16 July 2012

Turkey Joint letter for Turkish lawyers

In a joint letter to Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, L4L, together with 15 other human rights organizations, urged Ms. Knaul to undertake action in the framework of her mandate for the 46 lawyers that will stand trial this week.

On November 22, 2011, a broad campaign of arrests was launched in 16 cities targeting 46 lawyers, in the context of the case against the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK, Union of Communities in Kurdistan). Thirty-six of them are currently still detained.

The arrests were made in the context of an anti-terrorism operation. This operation was publicly presented as intending to dismantle the KCK, an organization said by the authorities to be the “urban branch” of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). All lawyers arrested have defended (former) PKK-members, and many of them have been involved in the legal representation of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. They have been charged with “membership in an illegal organization” and “being executives of an illegal organization”, solely based on their activities as a lawyer. Their case, which is known as the “Lawyers trial”,  is due to open on July 16-18, 2012.

In Turkey, cases of judicial harassment against lawyers for merely defending their clients’ rights in politically sensitive cases are not new, but the increase of arrests the last couple of months of lawyers concerns L4L. Many lawyers suffer judicial harassment because they are identified with their clients or the cause they defend. Notably, lawyers who represent clients in antiterrorism cases, in turn face prosecution for terrorism on the same charges as their clients.

Identifying lawyers with their clients is in violation of international standards and more in particular with Principle 18 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which states that: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions”.

In view of the gravity of this situation, many organizations, L4L among them, urged Ms. Knaul to take action in the framework of her mandate so that the charges against the lawyers are dropped and, more generally, that judicial harassments targeting lawyers stop, as they are baseless and seem to aim only at punishing them for their professional activities.

Click here to see the letter that was sent. For more information on the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, please see our Basic Principle database.

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