The Bar Human Rights Committee alongside the Law Society of England and Wales and the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute have sent a joint submission to the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers concerning the independence of the legal profession in Turkey.

The submission raised concern for the fair trial rights of lawyers facing prosecution in Turkey following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, including concerns for the independence of the judiciary and concerns about the independence of the legal profession, such as hindrances to the effective performance of lawyers’ professional functions, direct interference with the independence of bar associations and denying admission to the bar.

The submission also highlighted its concern over the arbitrary arrest, detention and wrongful prosecution of lawyers in Turkey, as well as concern for the safety of those currently detained. Evidence collected by the organisations suggests more than 581 lawyers have been arrested, 1,542 prosecuted and 168 lawyers convicted.

The submission requests that the Special Rapporteur send a communication to the Government of Turkey seeking guarantees from the Government to the following urgent requests:

  1. Guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the prosecution services, in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the UN Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors.
  2. Amend legislative and constitutional provisions that allow the Turkish government to appoint a large number of members of the HSK and the Constitutional Court;
  3. Guarantee that all applications against dismissal decisions are considered in a fair and public hearing in a reasonable time by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law as provided for in Article 14.1 of the ICCPR, Article 6.1 of the ECHR;
  4. Regarding all applications against dismissals under consideration by the Inquiry Commission for State of Emergency Measures, ensure:-
    • that the majority of the members of the Commission are independent and impartial; not appointed by the executive,
    •  that applicants have access to case files and grounds for dismissals,
    • that applicants can present evidence and challenge evidence filed against them,
    • that the decisions of the Commission are reasoned, based on evidence presented by both parties, made public, and  directly notified to the applicant,
    • and that the Commission is provided enough resources to address its backlog as soon as possible;
  5.  Ensure that lawyers can effectively perform their professional functions in accordance with the guarantees provided for in Article 14 of the ICCPR, the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and Articles 5 and 6 of the ECHR by:-
    • Repealing legislation enacting emergency decree laws which impact legal professional privilege, access to a lawyer of one’s choice, and which extend detention periods without access to a lawyer, and
    • Removing any practical obstacles;
  6. Amend the anti-terror legislation (including the new Anti-Terrorism Bill adopted on 25 July 2018), and provisions in the Criminal Code as recommended by the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, and the European Union,;122  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;
  7. Immediately end the arbitrary and systematic arrest, prosecution and detention of lawyers, 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;
  8. Ensure the independent and prompt investigation and prosecution of all cases of torture and ill-treatment of lawyers committed by law enforcement officers, in accordance with applicable international standards;
  9.  Immediately end the interference in and systematic persecution of bar associations and lawyers’ associations and arbitrary arrest and prosecution of their members; and
  10. Ensure that lawyers are entitled to form and join independent and self-governing professional associations as protected by Principle 24 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

The full submission can be read here.