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Persecution of lawyers in Turkey must stop

24 January 2019

Lawyers in Turkey are suffering detention, arrest and jail on an unprecedented scale simply for carrying out their professional duties, a coalition of lawyers from around the world said on 24 January to mark the Day of the Endangered Lawyer 2019.

At least 594 lawyers have been arrested, 1,546 prosecuted and 216 convicted in Turkey since the attempted coup in July 2016. Many have been arbitrarily detained, and others are targeted with spurious allegations of support for terrorist organisations.

Law Society of England and Wales president Christina Blacklaws said: "The intimidation and persecution of lawyers undermines the rule of law. The consequences are an entire society that becomes less safe, less stable and less fair.

"Lawyers in Turkey are being persecuted for no reason other than their courageous determination to represent their clients, many of whom are human rights defenders.

"This is a fundamental breach of Turkey's international obligations to respect the role and independence of lawyers."

United Nations principles, internationally agreed, state lawyers must be allowed to carry out their professional duties without interference and should never be identified with their clients or clients' causes.

The Turkish state has introduced regressive decrees and legislation that have deepened the rule of law crisis, creating an environment in which the government can act with increasing impunity. The state has given itself powers to dismiss judges and control judicial appointments, to arrest and prosecute lawyers, judges and court officials.

Christina Blacklaws said: "An independent legal profession underpins political, social, and economic stability.

"The rule of law is essential to preserve democratic values, fundamental freedoms and good governance.

"We honour the courage and commitment of lawyers in Turkey and around the world who uphold justice, despite considerable risk to themselves, their colleagues, and families."

Notes to editors

Joint Declaration concerning the breakdown of the Rule of Law and serious threats against the Independence of Judges, Lawyers, and Prosecutors in Turkey (PDF 139kb)

Signatories:

The Law Society of England and Wales
Abogacía Española - Consejo General
Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales
Geneva Bar Association, Human Rights Commission
German Bar Association, Human Rights Committee
European Bar Human Rights Institute
Paris Bar, Human Rights Institute
International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute
International Observatory for Endangered Lawyers
Lawyers for Lawyers
Norwegian Bar Association, Human Rights Committee

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and present solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | harriet.beaumont@lawsociety.org.uk | +44 (0)20 8049 3854