Oral statement to the UN calling on Turkey to safeguard the independence of lawyers

Tuesday 29 September 2020

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Oral Statement to the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council Regular Session - Item 6: UPR Adoption Turkey | Lawyers for Lawyers, The Law Society of England and Wales, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.

Mme. President,

We welcome Turkey’s supporti of some recommendations relating to the rights of human rights defenders, including lawyers, made at its 3rd UPR. We call on Turkey to effectively implement these recommendationswithout delay.

A fundamental aspect of the rule of law and an effectively functioning justice system is access to legal representation by an independent legal profession. Lawyers should be able to carry out their professional duties without harassment, intimidation, or improper interference.

For years, lawyers in Turkey have been subjected to judicial harassment, including mass arrest and criminal prosecution, as well as threats, surveillance, and lack of fair trials of their clients and themselves. Many lawyers who represent clients in politically sensitive cases and speak out on rights violations against their clients , are being arrested. Some lawyers are charged with the same terrorism-related offences of which their clients are accused. This violates the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which states that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes. On 11 September 2020, a further 60 lawyers were arrested in such circumstances.

This month, UN experts expressed dismay about the “preventable” death of lawyer Ebru Timtik, who died while on hunger strike demanding the right to a fair trial in Turkey.iv Lawyers should not have to die or be imprisoned for asking that the rule of law be respected.

We are also gravely concerned about amendments to Turkey’s Law on Lawyers aiming to reform Bar Associations in Turkey, which we believe is an effort to fragment professional bodies and use information about political affiliation for potential persecution of their members.

We urge Turkey to:

  • effectively implement all supported UPR recommendations without delay
  • take immediate measures to safeguard the independence of lawyers and provide   protection against any form of undue interference with their work; and
  • guarantee the independence of all bar associations in Turkey and reverse legislative or other measures that negatively affect their independence.

Thank you.


Notes to the Editor

  1. 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.
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works 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.

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