PACE rapporteurs express concern over situation of lawyers in Turkey

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteurs said on Monday that they were concerned over the deteriorating situation of lawyers in Turkey.

“Lawyers should not be criminalised for exercising their profession, or convicted on dubious charges,” said Alexandra Louis, PACE’s General Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member states, and the two co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Thomas Hammarberg and John Howell, as saying.

On Sept. 11, Turkish authorities arrested 60 people, including 48 lawyers and others in the legal sector, suspected of operating in support of the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government accused of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt.

And, Turkish Court of Cassation upheld heavy prison sentences against 14 from the Progressive Lawyers' Association last week.

“We have already expressed our shock and sadness at the death in detention of one of these lawyers, Ebru Timtik, who paid the ultimate price for her quest to ensure a fair trial,” the rapporteurs said.

“The Turkish justice system must respect the European Convention on Human Rights and rule of law standards. Lawyers play a key role in the implementation of these standards, and the effective administration of justice. They must therefore be able to exercise their profession independently and safely,” they said.

The PACE rapporteurs also said that the adoption of the Law on Bar Associations in July 2020, without proper consultation, was “another step which could jeopardise the position of lawyers in the Turkish justice system.''

“We shall continue to follow the situation of lawyers in Turkey at our forthcoming meetings, and we stand ready to explore, together with the Turkish authorities, how the Council of Europe can engage in meaningful dialogue to improve the situation of lawyers in Turkey.” 

Since 2016, more than 1,500 lawyers have been prosecuted, more than 600 detained, and 345 convicted of various crimes as part of a government crackdown, according to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative. 

Turkey is ranked 109th out of 126 countries according to the 2019 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.