IBAHRI condemns persecution of human rights lawyer Ramazan Demir in Turkey

Wednesday 13 February 2019

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the repeated arrests and longstanding criminal proceedings, as well as the recent disciplinary procedures initiated by the Istanbul Bar Association, against human rights lawyer Ramazan Demir (pictured). Further, the IBAHRI calls on the authorities of the Republic of Turkey to adhere to the international legal instruments that safeguard the independence of legal professionals and the rule of law.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘The rights, and importance, of lawyers to represent their clients without fear of harassment, intimidation or persecution is recognised by international human rights standards. The IBAHRI calls on the government of Turkey and the Istanbul Bar Association to adhere to these principles, because where there is no independent legal profession there can be no independent judiciary, no rule of law, no justice, no democracy and no freedom.

Since April 2016, Mr Demir and 11 other lawyers have been charged with ‘propaganda for a terrorist organization’. The charges stem from their work representing 46 other lawyers who were arrested in 2011 for allegedly working for, or belonging to, a terrorist organisation.

In December 2018, following a request by the Ministry of Justice, the Istanbul Bar Association initiated disciplinary proceedings against Mr Demir, relying on the 2016 criminal proceedings. This action was taken shortly after Mr Demir’s hearing at the European Court of Human Rights, where he represented many persons who asserted credible claims against the Turkish government in the Cizre case – a law suit filed by relatives on behalf of Orhan Tunç and Omer Elçi, who were among more than 100 people allegedly killed by Turkish security forces, who surrounded three buildings in Cizre during operations between December 2015 and February 2016.

Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, IBAHRI Co-Chair, commented: ‘Seemingly, the criminal and disciplinary proceedings against Mr Demir relate to his work as a lawyer representing clients. As such, they amount to improper interference. This is of deep concern to the IBAHRI, as is the involvement of the Istanbul Bar Association in what appears to be an unlawful prosecution of Mr Demir. The IBAHRI reminds the Istanbul Bar Association that the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers recently highlighted the need for bar associations to be independent of political interference and to ensure protection of lawyers to enable them to effectively carry out their work.

The IBAHRI’s concerns regarding the increasing number of attacks against lawyers and the diminishing of the rule of law in Turkey were recently raised during the Day of the Endangered Lawyer on 24 January 2019.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Ramazan Demir was the winner of the 2017 IBA Human Rights Award.
  2. Since 2016 to date, it is estimated that in Turkey more than 594 lawyers have been arrested, 1,546 prosecuted and 216 lawyers convicted (direct source: The Arrested Lawyers Initiative).
  3. A joint submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers highlights successive legislative and constitutional reforms that have significantly weakened the rule of law in Turkey. Newly acquired powers enable the government to interfere with the judiciary and the legal profession and arrest those who have voiced opposition against actions taken by the State.
  4. Ramazan Demir represents many persons who have asserted credible claims against the Turkish government of violence that occurred in Cizre, Southeastern Turkey, in Elçi v Turkey and Ahmet Tunç and Others v Turkey. On 7 February 2019, the European Court of Human Rights declared both cases inadmissible.
  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.

    In the ensuing 70 years since its creation, the organisation has evolved from an association comprised exclusively of bar associations and law societies to one that incorporates individual international lawyers and entire law firms. The present membership is comprised of more than 80,000 individual international lawyers from most of the world’s leading law firms and some 190 bar associations and law societies spanning more than 170 countries.

    The IBA has considerable expertise in providing assistance to the global legal community, and through its global membership, it influences the development of international law reform and helps to shape the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London, United Kingdom. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, United States, while the International Bar Association’s International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law Programme (ICC & ICL) is managed from an office in The Hague, the Netherlands.

    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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