Statement at the occasion of Lawyers Day in Turkey
As we have done several times before, on 5 April – Lawyers Day in Turkey – Lawyers for Lawyers takes the opportunity to strongly condemn the ongoing crackdown against lawyers in Turkey.
The last year again was a year in which many lawyers in Turkey have been subjected to judicial harassment, arrests, attacks, threats, surveillance, unfair trials and harsh sentences. Lawyers are being targeted incessantly for solely carrying out their professional activities.
A particular low point was the conviction of 19 lawyers, all members of the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD), without any evidence, to in total 146 years in prison for being a member of a terrorist organization and making propaganda for a terrorist organization. This group of lawyers includes Barkın Timtik (sentenced to 20 years and 6 months), Oya Aslan (sentenced to 16 years and 6 months) and Selҁuk Kozağaҁlı (convicted to 13 years), who were still in pre-trial detention at the time of the verdict. After a ten-year-trial, the verdict was delivered on 11 November 2022. Lawyers for Lawyers has been monitoring this case since the beginning and has therefore observed first-hand how unfair this trial has been. The convictions are in total violation of the right to a fair trial, the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the rule of law.
Lawyers for Lawyers also monitored criminal cases against the ex-presidents and board-members of the Bar Associations of Ankara and Diyarbakır for issuing press statements about human rights issues. These prosecutions are in clear violation of the right of freedom of expression as laid out in article 23 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. This also is a worrying development, that forms part of a broader effort to undermine the independence of bar associations and lawyers in general. Fortunately, the ex-president and ex-board members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association were acquitted. The case against the Ankara Bar Association, however, is still continuing, and a new case against the Izmir Bar Association is set to start this month.
Not surprisingly, Turkey further downed on the 2022 WJP Rule of Law Index of the World Justice Program (https://worldjusticeproject.org/rule-of-law-index/country/2022/Turkey ) and is now at number 116 of 140 countries.
At the occasion of Lawyers Day 2023, we again urge the authorities to uphold the rule of law, bring an end to the harassment and prosecution of lawyers, and unconditionally release all lawyers that are unduly detained for carrying out their professional activities.
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