International Bar Association report highlights crackdown on Turkish Lawyers

The report detailed the unfair trials, arbitrary detainment, imprisonment, and harassment

International Bar Association report highlights crackdown on Turkish Lawyers

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and The Arrested Lawyers Initiative (TALI) released a detailed report exposing the severe challenges and systemic crackdown faced by the legal profession in Turkey.

The report, titled "A Profession on Trial: The Systematic Crackdown Against Lawyers in Turkey," detailed the unfair trials, arbitrary detainment, imprisonment, and harassment that law professionals across Turkey have endured.

Specifically, the report illuminated the exploitation of counter-terrorism legislation against lawyers during their legitimate duties, marking a stark decline in the independence of the legal profession and bar associations within the country. Following the coup attempt in 2016, authorities detained, prosecuted, and convicted lawyers in 77 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces, primarily under the broad and ambiguous anti-terror offences stipulated in Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law No 3713. Charges often wrongfully conflate lawyers with their clients. Authorities have prosecuted over 1,700 lawyers, placing 700 in pretrial detention and sentencing at least 553 to a total of 3,380 years in prison.

The crackdown attracted significant international criticism. The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Turkey in numerous cases, finding violations of the European Convention due to arbitrary convictions that lacked adequate evidence. Dunja Mijatovi─ç, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, criticized the overly broad definitions of terrorism used by Turkey and the judiciary’s further extension of these definitions, which treated legally protected actions and statements as evidence of criminal activity.

Governmental interference has also significantly compromised the independence and functionality of bar associations, leading to the closure of over 34 lawyers’ associations in the past seven years. The report expressed grave concerns over the abuse of Turkey's anti-terrorism legislation, which contravenes international safeguards meant to protect the legal profession and its crucial role in the administration of justice.

IBAHRI Co-Chairs Anne Ramberg, Mark Stephens CBE, and TALI Director Ali Yildiz strongly called on Turkey to respect its international obligations by ensuring the independence of its judiciary and legal profession. They also urged the amendment of Turkey’s domestic anti-terror laws to conform with international standards. Highlighting the essential role of lawyers in upholding justice, individual rights, and the rule of law, they demanded an end to the unlawful imprisonment and targeting of legal professionals in Turkey.

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