IBAHRI calls on Turkish gov’t to end torture of detained lawyers, persecution of HR defenders

The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an international lawyers group, has released a statement to mark the “2018 Day of the Endangered Lawyer” amid growing evidence that human rights defenders and legal professionals in Turkey have been systematically persecuted, detained and prosecuted by Turkish authorities, and has called on Turkish government to stop these persecutions.

Moreover, the IBAHRI calls for the cancellation of all proceedings against those who have been arbitrarily detained and/or prosecuted, and for the immediate release of those convicted.

“IBAHRI is concerned with the reported allegations of torture and mistreatment against detained lawyers, and urges the Turkish authorities to prevent any further forms of mistreatment and to immediately and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment,” said its co-chair Michael Kirby, who is an Australian jurist and academic, former Justice of the High Court of Australia, serving from 1996 to 2009.

“For Turkey to move out of its current period of turmoil, and end the state of emergency, it is essential that it ceases to target human rights defenders and legal professionals. To this end, we call on the Turkish authorities to release, without delay, all those who have been illegitimately arrested or detained for excessive periods without independent, judicial supervision based upon credible evidence and lawful authority since July 2016,” he added.

The government of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had “systematically targeted” legal professionals, the statement said, with 572 arrested, 1,488 being prosecuted, 79 sentenced to long-term imprisonment and around 34 bar associations shut down.

“This situation demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the rule of law and is a deliberate attack on human rights defenders and legal professionals,” said IBAHRI co-chair Hans Corell, who is a retired ambassador and a former Judge of Appeal, former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations (1994-2004).

“We call on the Turkish government to bring an end to this deplorable situation and to adhere to international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, by which Turkey is bound,” added Corell.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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