Joint statement on targeting of Turkish lawyers

Who we wrote to

We joined the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), international organisations, and law societies and bar associations from 15 European countries to write to the Turkish government.

What’s the issue

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 seven years

Lawyers are being targeted solely because they’re 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.

What we asked for

We 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.

In accordance with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference (Principle 16).

Lawyers must also not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions (Principle 18).

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

We 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.