In a significant international gathering this week, 27 bar associations, human rights organizations, and legal groups from eight countries concluded a fact-finding mission in Turkey. The focus was on the Turkish government’s treatment of criminal law and human rights lawyers, uncovering disturbing trends.
The delegation, which visited Turkey from November 6 to 9, included prominent legal bodies such as Fédération des Barreaux d’Europe (FBE), International Observatory of Lawyers (OIAD), Law Society of England and Wales, La Conférence des Bâtonniers – France, New York City Bar Association, Union Internationale des Avocats – Institute for Rule of Law (UIA-IROL). Their joint statement at the mission’s conclusion expressed profound concern over the ongoing harassment, arbitrary detention, and mistreatment of lawyers in Turkey.
According to the Brussels-based human rights group The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, the situation is dire. Since 2016, more than 1,700 lawyers have been arrested in Turkey, and 551 have been sentenced to a total of 3,356 years in prison on terrorism-related charges, predominantly for alleged membership in terrorist organizations. This data underscores the severity of the challenges faced by legal professionals in the country.
The delegation’s findings reveal that lawyers in Turkey are frequently targeted due to their legal work, including the clients they represent.
The statement highlighted that the detention of lawyer often violate international standards, including the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Lawyers have been held since 2017/2018 following unfair trials, and many are subjected to isolating detention conditions, restricted family access, and, in some cases, torture.
The treatment of these legal professionals, the delegation states, is a blatant violation of Turkey’s international legal obligations. It not only undermines the rule of law but also significantly impacts Turkish citizens’ access to justice, creating a climate of fear and insecurity among those working in criminal law and human rights defence.
In their call to action, the delegation demanded that the Turkish government cease all forms of intimidation and harassment against lawyers and respect the independence of the legal profession. This demand aligns with international law, including the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
The international delegation has vowed to continue monitoring the situation in Turkey, ensuring that the Turkish government adheres to international human rights standards.
Categories: Situation in Turkey