Turkey (February 2013)

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Arrest and Detention of Human Rights Lawyers in Turkey

 The Law Society of Upper Canada is gravely concerned about the arrest and detention of human rights lawyers in Turkey.

According to reports, 15 human rights lawyers were arrested in January 2013.  Nine of the lawyers are members of the Progressive Lawyers' Association (ÇHD), which is affiliated to the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH).   The lawyers who have been arrested are known for their work in representing persons accused of crimes against the state and terrorism and members of minority groups. Reliable reports indicate that the lawyers are being targeted for their human rights work.

Recent reports state that some of the lawyers were released, however nine lawyers are imprisoned and awaiting trial: Güçlü Sevimli (member of the Istanbul Branch - Istanbul Bar Association), Barkın Timtik (member of Istanbul Bar Association), Şükriye Erden (member of Istanbul Bar Association), Naciye Demir (member of Istanbul Bar Association), Nazan Betül Vangölü Kozağaçlı (member of the Ankara Branch - Ankara Bar Association), Taylan Tanay (President of the Istanbul Branch - Istanbul Bar Association), Ebru Timtik (member of Istanbul Bar Association), Günay Dağ (member of Istanbul Bar Association), Selçuk Kozağaçlı (National President of ÇHD - Ankara Bar Association).  It is the Law Society's understanding that arrest warrants have been issued for other lawyers.  The nine imprisoned lawyers have been particularly active on human rights cases, especially in representing victims of police violence. 

The recent arrests are reminiscent of the arrests of a number of lawyers in Turkey in November and December 2011.  These lawyers are currently being prosecuted on charges alleging association with a terrorist organization.  The Law Society would like to express its continued concern about the detention and prosecution of these lawyers. 

The Law Society is deeply concerned about situations where lawyers who work for the protection and respect of human rights are themselves targeted for exercising their freedoms and rights under international law. Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that 'governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.' Article 18 states that 'lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions'.

The Law Society urges the government of Turkey to,

  1. Guarantee all the procedural rights that should be accorded to the lawyers arrested and to release them immediately if it appears that no charges should be laid against them
  2.  guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the lawyers;
  3. put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders in Turkey;
  4. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations; and
  5. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments. 

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 44,700 lawyers and 4,900 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and 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.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Turkey in their effort to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.