Adv. Francesco Caia
Coordinator for Human Rights and International Relations of the CNF – Italian National Bar Association
Vice President of the International Observatory of Endangered Lawyers (OIAD)
The cover of this report shows the dramatic figures of the repression against lawyers in Turkey. Colleagues unjustly stripped of their families, their friends, their profession, their freedom. An unbearable reality. Years of preventative detention inflicted on the basis of vague accusations, heavy sentences issued at the end of summary proceedings, held in spite of any standard imposed by the rule of law.
The Arrested Lawyers Initiative has been denouncing for years the systematic repression of public dissent seeping out of the gag imposed on lawyers in Turkey. The report shows how the absolute vagueness of the crimes ascribed to lawyers, among which the promotion of and participation in armed terrorist organisations, together with the lack of specific charges and the impossibility to know the identity of prosecution witnesses, made any attempt at a defence in court impossible. A wicked mechanism often extends the crime of which defendants are accused to the lawyers defending them. It takes a tweet or the subscription of an appeal on social media criticising a government decision to be accused and convicted.
In October last year, the Consiglio Nazionale Forense took part in a fact-finding mission at Sliviri detention centre, 70 km away from Istanbul, together with lawyers coming from all European countries, to look into the circumstances that, on 20 March 2019, brought to the sentencing, up to 18 years and 6 months of prison, of 18 Turkish lawyers members of the ÇHD, Çagdas Hukukçular Dernegi (Progressive Lawyers Association), to ascertain their detention conditions and find out about the grave breaches to the principles of fair process and equality of arms, which clearly emerged during the ensuing debate with state officials.
Many convicted lawyers have been on hunger strike since 3 February 2020 and, pending the ban imposed by 6 the spread of COVID-19, there is no way to know about their health conditions.
Let’s not forget them!
This was written as an introduction for our report named Mass Prosecution of Lawyers in Turkey – Unjust Arrests & Convictions (2016-2020) which was published by the CNF in English and Italian.