Supporting the Legal Community in Turkey on Lawyers Day

Today we join Turkish lawyers and other legal professionals, as well as other bar associations and human rights organizations around the world, in celebrating April 5th as “Lawyers Day” in Turkey. We express our solidarity with lawyers, judges and bar associations in Turkey who continue to be subject to arbitrary harassment, arrest and imprisonment by Turkish government authorities. We condemn the Turkish Government’s arrest and detention of lawyers Ebru Timtik, Aytac Unsal and 16 other lawyers that occurred in 2017; and which led to Ebru Timtik’s untimely death on August 27th, 2020, following her 238 day hunger strike to fight for her right to a fair trial. Today, we remember Ebru Timtik and all Turkish lawyers and judges whose human rights have been violated, as a result of the Turkish government’s interference in judicial process and the abilities of lawyers to practice their profession.  

We must continue to speak out on behalf of lawyers and judges in Turkey who remain under attack for doing their jobs. Many are imprisoned or have had their licenses revoked, while others have fled in self-imposed exile abroad. In August of last year, the Turkish Government launched a criminal investigation of bar associations in Ankara and other cities in direct retaliation for their activism on behalf of Turkey’s LGBTQ minority. And, from September until today, the Turkish state prosecutor’s office has ordered the detention of 190 lawyers, prosecutors and judges.  That’s 190 people in 180 days. The Turkish Government has also recently sought to dilute the power of local and municipal bar associations in Turkey and interfere in their elections.  

As part of the New York City Bar Association’s #BarofHope campaign, we unequivocally support the right of Turkish legal professionals to access, without fear or retribution, a fair and impartial judicial system, one which protects them, and their clients, in accordance with the U.N. Principles on the Judiciary, the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and the U.N. Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors. We call upon the Government of Turkey to respect its international obligations, to end its harassment, intimidation and persecution of lawyers, and to release lawyers held in detention.

We wish our Turkish colleagues well on this “Lawyers Day” in Turkey, as they continue to inspire us with their courage and activism in the face of injustice.