To mark the 2018 Day of the Endangered Lawyer, amid growing evidence that human rights defenders and legal professionals in Turkey are being systematically persecuted, detained and prosecuted by Turkish authorities, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls on the government of Turkey to stop the persecutions. Further, the IBAHRI calls for the cancellation of all proceedings against those who have been arbitrarily detained and/or prosecuted, and for the immediate release of those convicted.
IBAHRI Co-Chair Ambassador (ret.) Hans Corell commented: ‘The IBAHRI is deeply concerned by the large number of individuals arrested in Turkey who are part of groups promoting human rights and democracy in the country, or who have been working on cases in which authorities were, to some extent, involved. This situation demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law and is a deliberate attack on human rights defenders and legal professionals. We call on the Turkish government to bring an end to this deplorable situation and to adhere to international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, by which Turkey is bound.’
Since a state of emergency was put in place following an attempted coup in 2016, reports make evident that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government have systematically targeted lawyers with 572 lawyers arrested, 1,488 lawyers being prosecuted, 79 lawyers sentenced to long-term imprisonment and approximately 34 bar associations shut down.
According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, grounds for prosecutions have commonly been alleged affiliation to an armed terrorist organisation, with sentences of up to 13 years’ imprisonment. A key piece of evidence in linking lawyers to terrorist organisations has been their use of the mobile phone application ByLock, an encrypted and secure messaging app that is widely used in Turkey.
IBAHRI Co-Chair The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG added: ‘The IBAHRI is also concerned with the reported allegations of torture and mistreatment against detained lawyers, and urges the Turkish authorities to prevent any further forms of mistreatment and to immediately and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment.’ He observed: ‘For Turkey to move out of its current period of turmoil, and end the state of emergency, it is essential that it ceases to target human rights defenders and legal professionals. To this end, we call on the Turkish authorities to release, without delay, all those who have been illegitimately arrested or detained for excessive periods without independent, judicial supervision based upon credible evidence and lawful authority since July 2016.’
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