Submission to UN Human Rights Committee – Turkey
In 2021, the UN Human Rights Committee will review Turkey’s compliance with its international human rights obligations, and more in particular the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Lawyers for Lawyers has taken the opportunity to file a submission on the list of issues prior to reporting to inform the Committee about the situation of lawyers in Turkey.
The submission highlights five main issues: improper restrictions of lawyers, harassment and intimidation of lawyers, prosecution of lawyers, violations of freedom of expression of lawyers, and increasing pressure on the bar associations.
For years, lawyers in the State party have been unable to fulfil their professional duties effectively, due to external pressure and improper interference. Prior to the state of emergency, lawyers were already hindered in carrying out their professional activities and this interference has subsequently increased and led to amongst other things, intensified judicial harassment.
We have long been concerned about attempts to harass and disrupt the work of lawyers in the State party who have been targeted solely because they are carrying out their professional activities. Some lawyers in the State party have been targeted though criminal investigations which have led to, amongst other things, illegal searches of their houses and offices and judicial control measures in the form of (international) travel bans.
Furthemore, we have reported that attacks on lawyers range from threats and surveillance to judicial harassment, including arbitrary (mass) arrest, detention, and criminal prosecution. These attacks and improper interferences have become so widespread and systematic, that this has created a climate in which lawyers eventually refuse to represent clients connected to politically sensitive or controversial issues out of fear of becoming the target of acts of harassment.
Moreover, we have been informed that lawyers are being sentenced to prison and banned from practising law under anti-terrorism laws for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Lawyers have been the subject of criminal prosecution in connection to their reporting on human rights violations, social media posts and giving interviews to media.
The submission also discusses the recent targeting of the Bar Associations, resulting in a further deterioration of the rule of law in the State party.
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