Turkish Government is following ‘divide and conquer strategy’ over Bar Associations

Updates

  • July 6, 2020 – The Bill was passed by the Justice Commission of the Parliament and referred to the General Assembly for final deliberation and voting.

What does the Bill bring?

Draft law reduces leading bar associations’ authority, leads to creation of rival groups, the ICJ and Human Rights Watch said today. The Turkish government’s plan to allow for multiple bar associations appears calculated to divide the legal profession along political lines and diminish the biggest bar associations’ role as human rights watchdogs, they added.

The current bar associations have not been consulted, and 78 bars out of 80 signed a statement opposing the plan.

The ICJ and Human Rights Watch have published a question and answer document explaining the draft law, scheduled for a vote in parliament in the coming days. The document outlines the government-led effort to reduce the influence of leading bar associations, reflecting the executive’s growing dissatisfaction with the bar associations’ public reporting on Turkey’s crisis for human rights and the rule of law.

“Turkey’s prominent bar associations play a key role in defending fair trial rights and scrutinizing human rights at a time when flagrant violation of rights is the norm in Turkey. The government move to create multiple bars and dramatically cut leading bars’ representation at the national level is a clear divide-and-rule tactic to diminish the bar associations’ authority and watchdog role,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

 

“The government should immediately withdraw the current proposed amendment and embark on a process of full consultation with bar associations. The government’s plan as it stands will only deepen mistrust in Turkey’s justice system as lacking independence by dividing the legal profession along political lines. This could have disastrous long-term consequences for upholding the role and function of lawyers and for fair trial rights.” said Róisín Pillay, Director of ICJ’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

 

See the Q & A document published by the ICJ and HRW: Turkey-Q-and-A-on-the-bar-associations-Advocacy-2020-ENG

 

  • June 30, 2020 – Government bill to decentralize bar associations was submitted to the ParliamentThe structures of the bar associations and professional bodies are causing fascist implementations. This is why we are focusing on [formation of] multiple bar associations. Our deputies are submitting the relevant bill tomorrow,” Erdoğan said.If the draft bill becomes law, lawyers will be allowed to form additional bar associations in provinces with more than 5,000 registered lawyers. New associations would need a minimum of 2,000 members.

Professor of law, Kerem Altiparmak said, “the bill which will weaken bar associations is more dangerous than it seems. When torture or enforced disappearance incident occurs, the only refuge for the victim is Bar Associations. Pay regard to what Bar Associations of Diyarbakir, Izmir, Urfa and Ankara did in recent times. A weak bar association is a green light for human rights violations.

  • June 29, 2020 – 78 bar associations (out of 80) with a joint statement said the proposed model will leave desolate every individuals who seek the justice.

  • May 8, 2020 – Metin Feyzioğlu, the President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (UTBA) spoke favorably on the forthcoming proposal and said followings:

I was told the purpose of the amendment was to empower Anatolian Bars (implies the provincial bar associations which have a small number of members) which were being ignored.‘ – Mr Feyzioglu

  • May 10, 2020 – Four board members of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations made a written statement and reacted Mr Feyzioglu and the forthcoming amendment proposal. They also criticised the fact that the Minister of Justice which is an executive body was in charge of the bill on the professional bodies of lawyers.

“It was unacceptable that we, as the board members of the UTBA, became aware of such amendment (proposal) with Mr Feyzioglu’s social media post. It damages the legitimacy of this amendment.” Hüseyin Özbek, Asude Şenol, Eyyüp Sabri Çepik and Filiz Saraç, board members of UTBA

  • May 10, 2020 – 50 provincial bar associations, with a joint statement, criticized the forthcoming proposal.

For quite some time, there has been growing resentment amongst provincial bar associations, and the public in general, against Metin Feyzioğlu, who is the President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (UTBA). This is due to his negligence in regard of the Government’s gross human rights violations. Since, 2016, Mr Feyzioglu has been running the UTBA as an institution that is embedded in the Government. He has overlooked the Government’s crackdown against lawyers, as a result of which more than 1500 lawyers have been prosecuted, more than 600 detained, and 345 convicted of various “crimes”. Mr Feyzioglu has also whitewashed credible and concrete torture allegations, and has consistently spread the Government’s narratives. He saw no harm in attending the 2019 Judicial Year Opening Ceremony that was held in Erdoğan’s palace, and which was boycotted by fifty-one provincial bar associations.

Related News: Turkish Bar Associations boycott new judicial year opening at presidential palace (updated)

Erdogan Regime grasps control of the recruitment mechanism for the profession of law with the cooperation of Metin Feyzioglu.

During Turkey’s military operation in Syria, on 12th October, 2019, Mr Feyzioglu said that ‘Turkey was not obliged to consider the right to life of civilians who were being used as human shields by the SDF/YPG. This statement caused huge resentment among people in Turkey and in the international bar associations. On 14th October, 2019, the Swedish Bar Association condemned Mr Feyzioglu for this statement.

As the result of his political stance in whitewashing all of the rights violations that are happening in Turkey, he has lost the support of Turkish provincial bar associations. In November, 2019, twelve bar associations, representing 72% of the lawyers in Turkey, submitted an official request to the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (UTBA) that an extraordinary general assembly to be held.

Related News: General Assembly of the Union of Turkish Bars is to be held for electing its new president.

Mr Feyzioglu, who is conscious that he could lose his seat at the extraordinary general assembly, refused this request. In response, the regional bar association brought the matter to court at the Ankara 5th Administrative Court, and that court, on 27th March, 2020, ordered that the extraordinary general assembly was to be held. However, upon UTBA’s appeal, a higher court revoked the first instance court’s decision on 23rd April, 2020

Although the tension between the provincial bar associations and the side of Metin Feyzioglu / the Government seems to have calmed down, the controversy over a sermon of Turkey’s top mufti Ali Erbas reignited it. On April 24th, Mr Erbas alleged that LGBT people were the source of both evil and the Covid 19 epidemic. In response, Bar Associations of Ankara and Diyarbakir condemned him (and Ankara Bar Association also filed a criminal complaint), however, the Government supported the top mufti, and Metin Feyzioglu sided with the Government. And tension resulted in criminal investigations about the Bar Associations of Ankara and Diyarbakir.

Related News: Bar Associations of Ankara and Diyarbakir are under investigation for their statements denouncing Turkey’s top mufti.

Chief Public Prosecutor’s Offices of Ankara and Diyarbakir have launched an ex officio investigation against the Bar Associations of Ankara and Diyabakir because of its statement denouncing Turkey’s top mufti Ali Erbaş who, during his Friday sermon on April 24, alleged that LGBT people were the source for evil and epidemic.

The ordinary election for the presidency of UTBA will be held in May, 2021, and Mr Feyzioglu has no chance of being re-elected. However, President Erdoğan, took advantage of the recent tension which arose from Turkey’s top mufti’s statement, and said, on 5th May, 2020, ‘we have witnessed reckless attacks on Islam, in the person of the President of Religious Affairs. This example alone has shown the urgency and importance of the regulation regarding the election methods of professional organizations, especially the bar associations and the medical chambers.’

According to the UN Basic Principles on the Role of LawyersLawyers shall be entitled to form and join self-governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training and protect their professional integrity. The executive body of the professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference.

The Government’s purpose is to support Mr Feyzioglu against provincial bar associations, and to diminish the influence of the Bar Associations of Turkey’s large cities, which are sensitive about the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, women’s rights and human rights violations. Bar Associations, such as Ankara, Diyarbakir, Sanliurfa, Antalya and Izmir, are also very sensitive to torture and enforced disappearance complaints, and have published several reports documenting such incidents, which has disturbed the Government.

Professor of law, Kerem Altiparmak said, “the bill which will weaken bar associations is more dangerous than it seems. When torture or enforced disappearance incident occurs, the only refuge for the victim is Bar Associations. Pay regard to what Bar Associations of Diyarbakir, Izmir, Urfa and Ankara did in recent times. A weak bar association is a green light for human rights violations.

Related News: Erdogan gets infinite authority over the national and provincial bar associations

Erdogan, under the so-called Turkish-type Presidential Regime, has infinite authority over the civil society as well as all branches of the state. Turkey’s new constitution let Erdogan to issue Presidential Decrees that have equal power with law.

Presidential Decree No:5 of which name is Presidential Decree as to the State Inspection Institution (Devlet Denetleme Kurumu – DDK) regulates (article 1) that Turkish Presidency has authority to inspect Bar Associations, Professional Organizations, Trade Unions, Chambers of Commerce, Employer and Employee Unions, Association and Foundations.



Categories: Situation in Turkey

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