Legal coalition urges UN to act on persecution of lawyers and judges in Turkey

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The Law Society of England and Wales made a joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review of Turkey on behalf of an international coalition of legal organisations calling on the Turkish government to protect the independence of its lawyers, judges, and prosecutor.

In a statement, the society said that Turkish citizens are resorting in vain to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in ever greater numbers as trust in their domestic courts erodes.

“Judges’ and prosecutors’ independence have been systematically undermined in Turkey since the failed coup in 2016,” said Simon Davis, president of the Law Society. “Hundreds of judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been arrested, detained and convicted on charges of terrorism without credible evidence. Lawyers have been identified with and punished for their clients’ causes. More than 1,500 lawyers have been prosecuted, hundreds of them in mass trials. Lawyers who can still practise report intimidation and threats. This menacing environment undermines the right of every citizen to legal representation and a fair trial, which may explain why Turkish citizens submitted more than 57,000 petitions to the European Court of Human Rights in 2017. But that court will only take on cases where every domestic remedy has been exhausted, and it does not yet recognise that Turkish citizens have no effective domestic remedy, so they are being sent back to the Turkish courts in their thousands.”

“Turkey must protect the independence of lawyers, judges and prosecutors – in legislation and in practice – so that they can perform their professional duties without intimidation and improper interference. The rule of law and the independence of the legal profession are essential foundations for political, social and economic stability.

Davis said the Law Society and the international legal profession will continue to support colleagues working in such difficult conditions and will do whatever it can to help restore meaningful access to justice for all in Turkey.