Opinion | 23.01.2019

9th edition of the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer : Support Turkish Lawyers

On the occasion of the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the UIA encourages you to support our Turkish colleagues.

Through the misapplication of anti-terrorism laws, and, more recently, in the context of the state of emergency declared by President Erdoğan, following the failed coup of July 2016, your Turkish colleagues have been over the course of several years, the target of recurrent attacks merely for exercising their profession, particularly in the defence of human rights and civil liberties in Turkey.

Hundreds of our lawyer colleagues have been arrested in Turkey in the past several years. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that between January and December 2017 alone, approximately 570 lawyers were arrested, 1480 were prosecuted and 79 had been sentenced to long prison terms. Several lawyers' associations have been closed under the state of emergency, including the Progressive Lawyers Association in Turkey (ÇHD), and Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD). The members of these organizations have often represented victims of torture and other forms of abuse.  Presidents of local bars have also been arrested.

Turkish lawyers are too often associated or aligned with their clients and/or their clients’ interests or causes and persecuted because of this. This clearly violates the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Many lawyers practicing in Turkey are exposed to great personal risk simply because they are defending human rights or asserting claims against President Erdoğan or his government. This in turn also jeopardizes the representation of their clients. This, too, is a direct violation of the UN Principles.

Support your colleagues in Turkey! These colleagues include:

Muharrem Erbey, former vice president of İnsan Haklari Derneği - IHD - and former President of the IHD Diyarbakir Section, writer and winner of the 2012 Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize. He was sentenced on March 28, 2017, to six years and three months in prison for "belonging to a terrorist organization".

Taner Kiliç, President of Amnesty International Turkey, who was arrested in Izmir on June 6, 2017 along with 22 other lawyers in the context of operations against the Gülen organization by President Erdoğan. He remained in detention for 14 month.

Özlem Gümüştaş and Sezin Uçar, members of the "Law Firm of the Oppressed" (EHB), were arrested on October 18, 2017, before a hearing of the Suruç Massacre case, they monitored. Both lawyers were accused of "belonging to an illegal organization" and disseminating “propaganda for a banned organization". They were released and placed under judicial supervision on October 5, 2018.

Selçuk Kozağaçlı, human rights defender and Secretary General of the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD), who was arrested on November 8, 2017 in Istanbul and charged with allegedly being a member of a terrorist organization. 19 other colleagues are prosecuted in the same court case.

Ramazan Demir, Secretary General of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD), known for his interventions in cases concerning police brutality. He was arrested on March 16, 2016, together with 11 other lawyers who represented the 46 Turkish lawyers arrested in 2012 in a separate case. He was released on September 7, 2016 and sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for insulting President Erdoğan on January 12, 2018.

Unfortunately, the lawyers identified above are merely a tiny sample of Turkish lawyer prosecuted. For example, lawyers Ayşe Batumlu Kaya, Eren Keskin, Can Tombul, Barkın Timtik, Ömer Kavili and dozens more have been targeted for exercising their profession.

We cannot stand silently while many of our Turkish colleagues are harshly and unfairly persecuted, threatened, harassed, detained, tortured and convicted. Please Join the Day of the Endangered Lawyer and show our Turkish colleagues that we stand with them in solidarity!

Events will be organized all over the world, and hundreds of lawyers will express their support in front of the Turkish embassies and consulates not only in Germany, Belgium (Brussels), France (Paris, Bordeaux), Italy (Venice), The Netherlands (The Hague) and Turkey (Istanbul) but also in other places. [Go to https://defendlawyers.wordpress.com/ for more events.]

Join this international mobilization, calling on the Turkish authorities to:
1. put an end to the recurrent violations of the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers;
2. cease the prosecution of lawyers for the sole purpose of preventing them from freely performing their professional activities, and
3.  ensure that all those lawyers who have been arbitrarily detained are immediately released.

For more information on the situation in Turkey, please consult the 2019 IDHAE book entitled 2019 – Turquie : Le Crépuscule des Droits ( available in French only).

Useful links :

Report on the impact of the state of emergency on Human Rights in Turkey

IDHAE website - the World Observatory for Defense Rights and violations of the rights of lawyers

Article by the SAD -  Day of the Endangered Lawyer : January 24, 2019, the situation of lawyers in Turkey

Article by Conseil National des Barreaux - International Day of the Lawyers: gathering for the threatened Turkish lawyers. Day of the Endangered Lawyer

Facebook page of the Observatory of Lawyers

Article by Camera Penale on International Day of the Endangered Lawyer

Article by lawyers for lawyers - Day of demonstration of the Endangered Lawyer

Link to the Istanbul Barosu website