The Law Society of Upper Canada and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada express grave concern about the arrest and detention of lawyer Taner Kiliç and 22 additional lawyers

Toronto, ON - July 10, 2017 - The Law Society of Upper Canada and Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) express grave concern about the arrest and detention of lawyer Taner Kiliç and 22 additional lawyers in Turkey.

Taner Kiliç, lawyer and human rights defender, has served as the chair of Amnesty International Turkey since 2014 and has been on the board of the organization since 2002.

It has come to the attention of the Law Society and LRWC that on the morning of June 6, 2017, the Anti-Terror Branch of the Izmir police searched Taner Kiliç's home and his office. The police then took Taner Kiliç into custody.  

Since his arrest, Taner Kiliç has been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization.”  Authorities claim that they discovered Bylock, a secure mobile messaging application, on Taner Kiliç's phone in August 2014.  Authorities say Bylock was used by members of what they have labelled the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” to communicate. No evidence has been presented to substantiate this claim. Moreover, Taner Kiliç states that he did not download or use Bylock and had not heard of it until it was mentioned during recent arrests and prosecutions. 

According to Human Rights Watch, on June 9, 2017, Izmir Criminal Pace Judge No.3 ruled to remand Taner Kiliç in pre-trial detention.

Reports also indicate that 22 additional lawyers were detained in Izmir. According to Amnesty International, on June 9, 2017, eight lawyers were remanded in pre-trial detention, one was released on bail, seven were taken to the courthouse at the same time as Taner Kiliç and are awaiting decisions on their cases and six remain in police custody.

Human rights organizations note that the arrests of Taner Kiliç and the 22 additional lawyers are the latest in a series of human rights defenders, journalists, academics and activists detained in Turkey. The media has reported that since July 2016, authorities in Turkey have arrested approximately 50,000 people and fired or suspended 150,000 people. 

The Law Society of Upper Canada and LRWC urge the government of Turkey to comply with Turkey's obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations' (UN) Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Article 18 states:

Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.

Article 23 provides:

Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.

Furthermore, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)1 , the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) 2, Turkey is legally obligated to ensure that individuals within its territory enjoy, without discrimination, rights to: be presumed innocent, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, pre-trial release and to trial within a reasonable time and the right to obtain a remedy in relation to any violation of these rights. As Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, the relevant recommendations of the Committee of Ministers on pre-trial detention and release also apply.

The Law Society and LRWC urge the Government of Turkey to:

a. immediately and unconditionally withdraw all charges against Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers;

b. immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kiliç and the additional 14 lawyers who are in pre-trial detention or remain in police custody;

c. guarantee all of the procedural rights that should be accorded to Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers in accordance with their right to a fair trial;

d. ensure that Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers are afforded regular access to their lawyers and family;

e. put an end to all acts of harassment against Taner Kiliç, the additional 22 lawyers and all other lawyers in Turkey;

f. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers;

g. ensure that all lawyers in Turkey can carry out their professional duties and activities without fear of reprisals, physical violence or other human rights violations; and

h. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments, including the ICCPR and the ECHR.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law by providing support internationally to human rights defenders in danger. LRWC promotes the implementation and enforcement of international standards designed to protect the independence and security of human rights defenders around the world. In its work, LRWC campaigns for lawyers whose rights, freedoms or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy; produces legal analyses of national and international laws and standards relevant to human rights abuses against lawyers and other human rights defenders; and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC is a non-governmental organization with Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. 

1 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 Dec. 1966, U.N. Doc. A/6316, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force 23 March 1976, online at: www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx

2 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 222, entered into force 3 September 1953, online at: http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/Commun/QueVoulezVous.asp?NT=005&CM=7&DF=24/07/2012&CL=ENG.

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For more information, please contact Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor - Media Relations, at 416-947-7605 or stonkin@lsuc.on.ca

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