Turkey’s roll call of injustice – UN submission

Turkish citizens are resorting in vain to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in ever greater numbers as trust in their domestic courts erodes, the Law Society of England and Wales said as it made a joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review of Turkey on behalf of an international coalition of legal organisations.

“Judges’ and prosecutors’ independence have been systematically undermined in Turkey since the failed coup in 2016,” Law Society president Simon Davis said.

“Hundreds of judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been arrested, detained and convicted on charges of terrorism without credible evidence.

“Lawyers have been identified with and punished for their clients’ causes. More than 1,500 lawyers have been prosecuted, hundreds of them in mass trials.

“Lawyers who can still practise report intimidation and threats.

“This menacing environment undermines the right of every citizen to legal representation and a fair trial, which may explain why Turkish citizens submitted more than 57,000 petitions to the European Court of Human Rights in 2017.

“But that court will only take on cases where every domestic remedy has been exhausted, and it does not yet recognise that Turkish citizens have no effective domestic remedy, so they are being sent back to the Turkish courts in their thousands.”

Turkey’s chilling roll call of injustice includes:

  • 57,039 petitions to the ECtHR in 2017 from Turkish citizens, 25,000 of which rejected for failure to exhaust domestic remedies
  • 4,260 judges and prosecutors dismissed
  • 634 judges and prosecutors convicted on terrorism charges
  • 1,546 lawyers prosecuted, 311 sentenced to a total of 1,967 years in prison
  • 599 lawyers arrested and detained

“Turkey must protect the independence of lawyers, judges and prosecutors – in legislation and in practice – so that they can perform their professional duties without intimidation and improper interference,” Simon Davis said.

“The rule of law and the independence of the legal profession are essential foundations for political, social and economic stability.

“The Law Society and the international legal profession will continue to support our colleagues working in such difficult conditions and do whatever we can to help restore meaningful access to justice for all in Turkey.”

Notes to editors

The international coalition of legal organisations submitting evidence to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review of Turkey:

The Law Society of England and Wales

International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute

Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Conseil National des Barreaux

European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights

Lawyers for Lawyers

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Norwegian Bar Association, Human Rights Committee

International Observatory of Endangered Lawyers

Paris Bar, Human Rights Institute

German Bar Association, Human Rights Committee

Geneva Bar Association, Human Rights Commission

Abogacía Española – Consejo General

UIA – International Association of Lawyers

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