Access to the legal profession and disbarments in Turkey

We have written to the Turkish authorities alongside a coalition of bar associations and human rights groups, expressing our concerns about the hostile environment in which lawyers in Turkey have had to operate since 2016.
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We've long been deeply concerned about the increasingly challenging and hostile environment in which lawyers in Turkey have had to operate since the state of emergency following the attempted coup in July 2016.

Lawyers have been subjected to judicial harassment, including mass arrests, raids, violent attacks, threats, surveillance, illegitimate criminal charges, unfair trials and harsh sentences in disregard of the most basic principles of the rule of law.

Who we wrote to

On 19 July 2021, we wrote to the Turkish authorities.

We wrote this letter alongside:

  • AIJA – International Association of Young Lawyers
  • Institute for the Rule of Law of the International Association of Lawyers (UIA-IROL)
  • International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
  • Lawyers for Lawyers
  • Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
  • The Netherlands Helsinki Committee

    What's the issue?

    The Turkish government has used article 5 of the Attorneyship Law to prevent individuals who are being investigated, prosecuted or dismissed by emergency decrees from enrolling in law apprenticeships or obtaining their license to practise law. This is being used by the government to further target and pressure lawyers.

    These powers have been used to target lawyers who defend:

    • victims of alleged human rights abuses
    • individuals who have exercised their freedom of expression by publicly speaking out in cases that are viewed as politically sensitive

    Lawyers are routinely being investigated and prosecuted for association with, or membership of, a terrorist organisation. These investigations and prosecutions are based on little or no evidence, and at times continue for many years and prevent these individuals from practising as lawyers for an undefined period of time.

    Lawyers play a vital role in the protection of the rule of law and human rights. Their work is indispensable for ensuring effective access to justice for all. The specific rights and privileges that lawyers enjoy in connection to their profession should not only be guaranteed in light of the rights of the lawyer, but also for the protection of the rights of their clients, who have the right to effective and equal access to a lawyer of their own choosing.

    What we asked for

    We call on the Turkish authorities to respect the rights of lawyers and guarantee that: 

    • all existing and future lawyers have fair access to practise the legal profession
    • all existing and future lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference
    • lawyers are not subjected to disbarment or other disciplinary measures on improper grounds

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