BHRC is part of an international coalition of legal organisations who have submitted a joint Stakeholder Submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review for Turkey.
Alongside BHRC, the coalition includes the Law Society of England & Wales; International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute; Bar Human Rights Committee of England & Wales; Conseil National des Barreaux; European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights; Lawyers for Lawyers; Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada; Norwegian Bar Association, Human Rights Committee; International Observatory of Endangered Lawyers; Paris Bar, Human Rights Institute; German Bar Association, Human Rights Committee; Geneva Bar Association, Human Rights Commission; Abogacía Española – Consejo General; and UIA – International Association of Lawyers. All of the organisations are either professional bodies representing lawyers in their respective jurisdictions or voluntary associations of lawyers
In its submission, the coalition raise concern for the independence of the legal profession in Turkey in recognition of the “widespread and systematic persecution of members of the legal profession in Turkey” which has “deteriorated significantly” since the attempted coup in 2016. The submission cites the adoption of emergency decree laws, which were subsequently enacted by Parliament, and Presidential decrees that have eroded judicial and prosecutorial independence, undermined the right to legal representation and other fair trial rights, and led to the arbitrary arrest, detention, and prosecution of lawyers and judges and the closure of Bar Associations in Turkey.
Reports indicate that since the failed coup, approximately 599 lawyers have been arrested and detained (pre-trial detention), 1546 lawyers prosecuted, and 311 lawyers convicted and sentenced to a total of 1,967 years in prison. At least 14 presidents and former presidents of 12 provincial Bar Associations had been either arrested or detained, 34 lawyers’ associations in 20 different provinces have been closed down, and 4260 judges and prosecutors had been dismissed.
BHRC Co-Vice Chair Stephen Cragg QC stated:
BHRC has joined with fourteen other lawyers’ organisations around the world to prepare this report for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review on Turkey. The human rights of thousands of lawyers and judges have been violated by the Turkish government, especially in the last three years. Thousands have been arrested, charged and convicted on the flimsiest of evidence of being supportive of so-called terrorist organisations. Many more have lost their jobs. The rule of law in Turkey has suffered immeasurably as a result. Along with the other organisations we have called for Turkey to be held to account, to protect the independence of lawyers and judges, and to comply with international human rights law. It is important that all these issues are highlighted in the Human Rights Council’s UPR.
The coalition provides several significant recommendations for the Third UPR Cycle for Turkey, including:
- Introduce measures that will guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution services
- Amend legislative, constitutional, and other provisions that allow the Turkish government to appoint a large number of members of the HSK and the Constitutional Court to ensure the separation of powers;
- Introduce measures that will guarantee that all applications against dismissal decisions regarding members of the legal profession are considered in a fair and public hearing in a reasonable time by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal…
- Introduce measures that will ensure that lawyers can effectively perform their professional functions in accordance with the guarantees provided for in Article 14 of the ICCPR, Articles 5 and 6 of the ECHR, and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
- Amend the anti-terrorism legislation… to align these with international standards and define offences sufficiently precisely so that arbitrary application of these laws is prevented;
- Introduce measures that will ensure that lawyers are not identified with their clients or clients’ causes and can perform their duties without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference, in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers;
- Immediately end the arbitrary and systematic arrest, detention, and prosecution of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors; drop the charges against those arbitrarily accused, and release those who are detained, unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that comply with international fair trial standards;
- Introduce measures that will ensure the independent and prompt investigation and prosecution of all cases of torture and ill-treatment of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors committed by law enforcement officers, in accordance with applicable international standards;
- Implement decisions rendered by the European Court of Human Rights regarding members of the legal profession, including judges, as well as judgments rendered in cases where fair trial rights such as access to clients and professional confidentiality have been violated;
- Immediately comply with recommendations for the release of individuals made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other UN bodies;
- Immediately end the interference with bar associations and the arbitrary arrest and prosecution of their officials and members; and
- Ensure that lawyers are entitled to form and join independent professional associations, as protected by Principle 24 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.