Int’l bar associations urge Turkish gov’t to stop arbitrary detentions, torture

International bar associations have called on the UN Human Rights Council to urge the Turkish government to stop and remedy the arbitrary arrest, detention and wrongful prosecution of legal professionals and to prevent, investigate and punish the use of torture and ill treatment by state officials.

The Law Society of England and Wales, together with the IBA Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L), the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC), Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA), Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and Judges for Judges (J4J), published a joint statement to highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the legal profession in Turkey.

The statement was addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It was read before the special rapporteur on March 2, 2018 during a side event at the Palais des Nations in Geneva and widely circulated at the Human Rights Council.

In the joint statement, the organisations raise concerns over the widespread use of torture and other ill treatment in the aftermath of a controversial military coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, the lack of effective investigations and ongoing reports of torture. The signatories also share their concerns over the widespread, systematic and arbitrary arrest and detention of judges and lawyers in Turkey.

The IBAHRI and seven co-sponsoring organisations note the special rapporteur’s report on Turkey and call on the government of Turkey to ensure effective implementation of the recommendations.

“We share concerns raised about the widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment in the aftermath of the attempted coup and the lack of effective investigations. We are deeply concerned by the gravity and number of reports of torture we continue to receive, such as the reports early this week of 80 persons tortured by the police at Mersin Provincial Security Directorate.

“Also of concern are the widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests and detentions of judges and lawyers in Turkey. Reliable reports indicate that since July 2016: At least 1,525 lawyers have been prosecuted, 578 have been arrested and kept in pre-trial detention and 99 sentenced; and more than 4,400 judges and prosecutors have been investigated with more than 2,400 put in pretrial detention,” the joint statement said.

Stating that these reports also indicate the use of torture, ill treatment and excessive solitary confinement against legal professionals, highlighted by the case of a senior judge held in solitary confinement for more than a year and a lawyer arrested with 17 colleagues who were allegedly tortured by prison officials, the statement highlighted that the prohibition of the use of torture and the duty of states to prevent and punish torture are non-derogable rights under international human rights law.

“Finally, on January 5, 2017, the Prosecutor’s Office in Trabzon ruled that Decree Law No. 667 grants State officials immunity for any act committed within their duties under the state of emergency decrees, including acts of torture and ill-treatment. The prohibition on the use of torture and the duty of states to prevent and punish torture are non-derogable rights under international human rights law and, therefore, cannot be limited or suspended under any circumstance. We call on the Special Rapporteur to investigate and recommend remediation of the potential impunity for torture granted to State officials.”

The bar associations also called on the UN Human Rights Council to urge the Turkish government to stop and remedy the arbitrary arrest, detention and wrongful prosecution of legal professionals and to prevent, investigate and punish the use of torture and ill treatment by state officials.

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