Turkish bar associations reject invitation to state ceremony at presidential venue over ethics concerns

Seven Turkish bar associations have rejected an invitation to attend a state ceremony marking the beginning of the judicial year at the Turkish Presidency’s Congress and Culture Centre in Ankara, Turkish news site T24 reported on Friday.

In a letter to the presidency of Turkey’s Court of Cassation, the Istanbul association said it could not attend an event held at the presidency’s venue as this went against “every teaching” related to the law and justice.

The association said it could not accept a choice of venue that conflicted both with the constitution’s 104th article, which deal with the president’s duties in relation to the judiciary, but also with ethical standards outlined in a legal reform package unveiled in May.

The Istanbul bar association was joined by associations from the Izmir, Muğla, Antalya, Adana, Aydın and Ordu provinces, which also rejected the invitation to attend the event on September 2.

The transition to an executive presidential system has placed vast powers in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, among them the right to appoint members of the powerful Board of Judges and Prosecutors.

But even before the new system was inaugurated last year, serious concerns had been raised about judicial independence and the rule of law in Turkey.

Thousands of legal professionals were purged from the judiciary over a two-year state of emergency implemented after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

Ten international law associations said measures since the coup attempt had “permanently (curtailed) the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession in Turkey” in a joint statement in January.

“We are sad that such a good opportunity for the judiciary to meet and discuss the reasons for and events leading to what is the deepest crisis in its history has been wasted because of this”, the Istanbul bar association said in its statement.