Crackdown on Turkey's human rights lawyers continues



Lawyers representing terrorist suspects in Turkey have been hit by a new wave of judicial harassment, according to the organisation representing Europe’s legal professional bodies. The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) this week expressed concern about the harassment of 13 human rights lawyers who were taken into custody accused of ‘assisting a terrorist organisation’. 

While 12 of those lawyers were released after being given a travel ban, the authorities ordered in parallel the pre-trial detention of Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, based on ‘her representation of individuals charged with membership to a terrorist organisation’ and ‘her visits to the prison’, the CCBE said. 

The organisation represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries, which between them have a million members. 

In a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the CCBE’s president, Ranko Pelicaric, said: ‘This is not an isolated incident.’ The letter draws the authorities’ attention to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, including that ‘Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions’. It asks the president ‘take all necessary measures to guarantee that all lawyers in Turkey are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation or harassment, in order to preserve the independence, integrity of the administration of justice and the rule of law.’

The move follows international concern that hundreds of lawyers jailed since the coup attempt in 2016 have not benefited from prisoner releases granted because of the Covid-19 crisis. Meanwhile this week a volunteer group the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, published a fact sheet on what it says is a massive deterioration in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and adherence to the rule of law in Turkey.  

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