Türkiye sparks global criticism as eight nations condemn alleged lawyer harassment

Türkiye found itself the subject of international reproach on Friday, as a coalition of 27 bar associations, human rights organizations, and legal groups from eight countries pronounced their condemnation of the country’s alleged mistreatment of lawyers. The joint statement followed the conclusion of a fact-finding mission conducted within the nation.

The scrutiny primarily centered on the Turkish government’s conduct towards legal practitioners specializing in criminal law and human rights. The delegation, present in Türkiye from November 6 to 9, comprised distinguished legal entities, including the Fédération des Barreaux d’Europe (FBE), International Observatory of Lawyers (OIAD), Law Society of England and Wales, La Conférence des Bâtonniers – France, New York City Bar Association, Union Internationale des Avocats – Institute for Rule of Law (UIA-IROL).

In their collective statement, the groups expressed profound apprehension regarding the persistent occurrences of harassment, arbitrary detentions, and ill-treatment suffered by lawyers in Türkiye. Notably, Türkiye was ranked 116th among 140 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in 2022.

The delegation underscored its deep concern over the conditions of lawyers’ detentions, citing a breach of internationally-accepted prison standards, notably the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Furthermore, the delegation demanded a cessation of “all acts of intimidation and harassment targeting lawyers,” while emphasizing the imperative to uphold the independence of the legal profession. They urged compliance with international law, specifically highlighting the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

The international concerns comes after an April joint statement from thirty-three bar associations in Türkiye that called for the removal of constraints on access to legal counsel and the release of lawyers detained as part of a broader investigation targeting Kurdish-linked groups.

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