Turkey: IBAHRI and TALI release report documenting mass imprisonment of lawyers

Tuesday 13 February 2024

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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and The Arrested Lawyers Initiative (TALI) have released a detailed report highlighting the declining independence of the legal profession and bar associations in Turkey. The report underscores the targeting of law professionals through unfair trials, arbitrary detainment, imprisonment and harassment, as well as the alarming misuse of counter-terrorism legislation to prosecute lawyers in the course of their legitimate work.

In 2019, the designated country for the focus of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer was Turkey. Since that time, the independence of the legal profession has significantly diminished. In 77 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, lawyers have been detained, prosecuted and convicted following the 2016 coup attempt, particularly on the basis of vague and broad anti-terror offences. Charges have included membership to an armed terrorism organisation and/or of spreading terrorist propaganda – under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law No 3713. These charges are often combined with the misidentification of lawyers with their clients. More than 1,700 lawyers have been prosecuted, with 700 lawyers remanded to pretrial detention. Thus far, at least 553 lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 3,380 years in prison.

This abuse of the law has led to a multitude of case rulings against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights. Numerous court judgements have found Turkey to be in violation of the European Convention and that charges have led to arbitrary convictions without sufficient and clear evidence to support the allegations. On the situation, Dunja Mijatović, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe stated: ‘Laws with an overly broad definition of terrorism and membership of a criminal organisation and the judiciary’s tendency to stretch them even further is not a new problem in Turkey, as attested in numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. This problem has reached unprecedented levels in recent times. Prosecutors and, increasingly, the courts, consider lawful and peaceful acts and statements protected under the European Convention on Human Rights as proof of criminal activity. […] What is used as evidence is sometimes so inconsistent and arbitrary […] that it has become virtually impossible to foresee in good faith the legal consequences of actions. […] This uncertainty discourages legitimate dissent and criticism.’

The IBAHRI and TALI are gravely concerned about the pervasive abuse of Turkey's anti-terrorism legislation, which has breached established international safeguards, such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. The purpose of these protections is to guarantee the legal profession's safety and its capacity to serve in the administration of justice. Additionally, increasing interference by the government in the functioning of bar associations has curtailed their ability to act as effective bulwarks for the legal profession as more than 34 lawyers’ associations have closed over the last seven years, leading to their diminishing independence.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and immediate past-Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg, noted: ‘The judiciary and the prosecution in Turkey have become central figures in the mass incarceration of lawyers and the criminalisation of lawyers’ professional duties. Instead of upholding justice, the judiciary and the prosecution have played a disconcerting role in the imprisonment of 553 lawyers and the undermining of the rule of law. The IBAHRI is dedicated to supporting initiatives to promote justice, equality and the protection of human rights and calls on Turkey to meet its international obligations.’

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Mark Stephens CBE, commented: ‘The undue influence of Turkey’s Executive imperils the role of bar associations as defenders of justice. It also poses a grave threat to checks and balances, accountability, and diminishes public trust in institutions and the justice system. Furthermore, such interference, coupled with the misuse of legal instruments, erodes the rule of law, increases risk of corruption within the judiciary, and undermines democratic principles. The IBAHRI calls for a halt to the targeting of law professionals as they undertake their professional duties.’

The Director of TALI, Ali Yildiz, stated: 'Lawyers play a pivotal role in upholding justice, preserving individual rights, and maintaining the rule of law in society. Their expertise is essential in navigating the complexities of the legal system, ensuring fair representation, and safeguarding the rights of individuals including freedom from torture. Turkish authorities continue to associate lawyers with their clients and consequently punish them. Many lawyers remain in prison on the same grounds. We ask the Turkish authorities to end the unlawful imprisonment of our fellow lawyers.’

The IBAHRI and TALI call on Turkish authorities to guarantee the independence of Turkey’s judiciary and legal profession and to amend domestic anti-terror laws to ensure that they are in line with regional and international principles.


For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org

Notes to the Editor 

  1. Click here to download a PDF of the ‘A Profession on Trial: The Systematic Crackdown Against Lawyers in Turkey’ report.
  2. Related material:
  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  4. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:
  5. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

  6. Find the IBA (@IBAnews) on social media here:

Website page link for this news release:

Short link: www.tinyurl.com/yxfkhn67
Full link: www.ibanet.org/Turkey-IBAHRI-and-TALI-release-report-documenting-mass-imprisonment-of-lawyers