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International Legal Coalition Raises Alarm Over Human Rights Violations Against Lawyers in Turkey

By Ensar Nur/ Tr724

In a groundbreaking international effort, a coalition of 27 bar associations, human rights groups, and legal collectives from eight countries has highlighted serious human rights abuses against lawyers in Turkey. Following a recent visit to the country, the coalition accused the Turkish government of systematically targeting legal professionals.

During their mission in November, the coalition, comprising some of the most influential legal and human rights bodies globally, conducted an in-depth examination of the Turkish government’s actions against criminal law and human rights attorneys. The delegation’s findings paint a grim picture of the situation facing legal practitioners in Turkey.

The joint statement issued by the delegation expresses deep concern: ‘Lawyers in Turkey continue to endure harassment, arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and even torture and mistreatment. These actions are not just isolated incidents but a part of a disturbing pattern of systematic government targeting. This is particularly evident in the cases of lawyers representing clients in human rights cases or belonging to professional legal organizations.’

The majority of the lawyers visited in Turkish prisons are members of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) and the People’s Law Office (HHB), noted for their long-standing work in criminal and human rights law. Their imprisonment is seen as direct evidence of the Turkish government’s systematic campaign against those defending citizens’ fundamental rights.

The delegation also highlighted the denial of fair trial rights for these detained lawyers, many of whom have been held since 2017/2018 following what are described as ‘unfair trials and ineffective legal assistance.’

Further concern was raised about the conditions of detention, which are reportedly in violation of international standards, including those set by the United Nations. The delegation’s report mentions arbitrary and extended detentions, often without sufficient cause, and restrictive conditions that isolate detainees from most external contacts, including family.

‘These egregious acts, ranging from arbitrary detention to torture, represent a blatant disregard for Turkey’s international legal obligations,’ the statement reads. ‘Such tactics of intimidation by the Turkish government not only undermine the rule of law but also hinder Turkish citizens’ access to justice, creating a climate of fear and insecurity for lawyers working in criminal law and human rights advocacy.’

The international legal community is calling on the Turkish government to cease all acts of intimidation and harassment against lawyers and to respect the independence of the legal profession, in line with international law, including the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Participating organizations in the coalition span a diverse range of legal bodies, including prominent bar associations from Bologna, Bordeaux, Brussels, and New York City, as well as several European and international human rights and legal advocacy groups.”

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