Criminalisation of Lawyers in Turkey

Criminalisation of Lawyers in Turkey

Today the Mesopotamia Observatory of Justice submitted a communication to the United Nations expressing our serious concern about continuing attacks on lawyers in Turkey. We urge the UN Special Rapporteurs on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, on Human Rights Defenders, on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism to take action to ensure lawyers can conduct their professional activities without facing criminalisation and other forms harassment.

Lawyers in Turkey working with political activists, political prisoners, civil society organisations, migrants and journalists have experienced high levels of harassment and intimidation. This further intensified by the attempted coup d’état of 15 July 2016, following which saw the rapid escalation of worrying trends, including: mass arrests and prosecutions, prolonged pre-trial detention and heavy prison sentences, torture and ill-treatment during pre-trial detention, cancellation of passports, travel bans, targeted defamation campaigns and systematic intimidation.

These trends against lawyers and other members of the political opposition began long before the declaration of the State of Emergency and have continually increased to the present day. Despite the formal end of the State of Emergency on 18 July 2018, the situation is deteriorating. The continued interference of the executive with the judicial and criminal justice systems is unsettling, particularly now that it is more frequent and having a direct and adverse effect on the outcome of pending trials and the professional activities of lawyers.

The following cases are of immediate concern and indicate the nature and scale of the problems faced by lawyers in their professional activity:

  • The Asrin Law Office Case (the ‘KCK lawyers trial’): 36 lawyers on trial before the Istanbul 19th High Criminal Court on the charge of disseminating terrorist propaganda
  • The ÖHD (The Association of Libertarian Jurists) / TUAD (The Association of Families of Prisoners) Case: 12 lawyers on trial before the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on the charge of membership of a terrorist organisation
  • The ‘Cizre Protest Case’: 18 lawyers on trial before the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court on the charge of making terrorist propaganda
  • The ‘Ankara Explosion Protest Case’: 19 lawyers on trial before the Istanbul 13 High Criminal Court on the charge of disseminating terrorist propaganda
  • The ‘Courthouse Search Case’: 4 lawyers on trials before the Istanbul 39th  Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of property damage and resisting public officials (refusal of searches)
  • The ‘Courthouse Press Statement Case’: 16 lawyers on trial before the Istanbul 58th Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of unlawful assembly
  • The People’s Law Office Case: 18 lawyers on charges of founding, directing or membership of a terrorist organisation
  • The ÇHD (Association of Progressive Jurists) / HHB (People’s Law Bureau) Case: 22 lawyers, charged with membership of a terrorist organisation

Mojust is deeply concerned about this wave of attacks against lawyers taking place in a climate of severe restrictions on human rights. We call upon the UN Special Rapporteurs to take urgent action, appropriate for their respective mandates, to help ensure the human rights and fundamental freedoms of lawyers in Turkey and to guarantee the rule of law.