Istanbul Bar Association to call for extraordinary judicial congress

The Istanbul Bar Association is set to call the Turkish Bars Association (TBB) for an extraordinary general congress after a ceremony kicking off the judicial year at the Presidential Complex in Ankara generated a storm of controversy.

The Istanbul Bar Association announced its decision to call for the meeting on its social media account and official website on Wednesday.

The call follows a boycott last month by dozens of provincial bar associations, including those of the three biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – of a ceremony launching the judicial year hosted by Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Complex in Ankara. 

TBB head Metin Feyzioğlu created a stir when he opted to attend the event, which was deemed by over 40 associations as a violation of the principle of the separation of powers. The groups said hosting the judiciary’s event at the president’s palace was also unconstitutional.

“The Turkish Bars Association is not in opposition to or a supporter of any political party,’’ Feyzioğlu said during the ceremony in Ankara, stressing the need to place Turkey’s national interests above all other matters.

Erdoğan praised Feyzioğlu for his presence at the event and rebuked the lawyers who boycotted the ceremony, saying their method of electing bar association members should be changed.

Thus far, the Antalya Bar Association has responded to the call for congress by its counterpart, saying it agrees with the move.

Turkey is ranked 109th out of 126 countries in the 2019 Rule of Law Index prepared by international civil society organisation the World Justice Project. 

The country’s judicial independence has come under increasing question following the July 2016 coup attempt, after which the government began a crackdown on the judiciary and other state bodies.

Activists accuse Erdoğan of blatant interference in judicial decisions, particularly following the June 2018 presidential elections, which gave him sweeping executive powers.