Italian national bar association, “Unione delle Camere Penali Italiene (UCPI)”, has called on all Italian interlocutors of the Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not only to discuss political and economic issues, but also openly express their dissent against his government that is systematically violating fundamental freedoms by persecuting opponents, minorities and human rights defenders, including lawyers and by denying the principles of the rule of law.
Erdoğan and his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella met in the capital Rome on Monday. Erdoğan was welcomed in an official ceremony at the presidential palace. The leaders held a 50-minute closed-door meeting where bilateral relations between the two countries were discussed. After the meeting, Erdoğan and his delegation were hosted at a banquet.
Erdoğan is the first Turkish president to visit the Vatican City in 59 years. Earlier on Monday, he was welcomed in an official ceremony in front of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. He was also expected to receive executives of leading Italian firms during the visit. The Turkish president embarked on an official visit to Rome on Feb. 4-5 following an invitation by Pope Francis.
UCPI has said in a written statement that “Today, Turkish President Erdoğan will be in Rome to meet the Pope, the President of Italy, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni Silveri and some Italian entrepreneurs. Turkey is a crucial interlocutor for the EU, due to its geographical location and the economic and commercial relations it maintains with the member states.
“However, in recent years, the Turkish government has systematically trampled on democracy and human rights. The repression of freedom of thought and dissent is carried out through the persecution of academics, journalists and associations demonstrating against the regime. Even lawyers, in their capacity as defenders of fundamental rights, are gravely attacked and intimidated.
“According to a report by The Arrested Lawyers Initiative updated to 25.01.2018, so far 572 lawyers have been arrested, 79 sentenced, 1,506 tried and 34 associations of lawyers have been dissolved. The news of the renewed incarceration of the president of Amnesty International in Turkey, the lawyer Taner Kılıç, was released very recently on January 31.
“UCPI has repeatedly expressed its concerns about the situation in Turkey and expressed its support for colleagues who are victims of intimidation and violence as it has always intervened in any other country where civil rights are disregarded and lawyers persecuted.
“The UCPI, has been monitoring the Turkish situation for years through the project “lawyers threatened / endangered lawyers” and assuring its support towards the attacked colleagues and threatened by attending observatories to the processes that concern them and participating in fact finding mission, like the one in the Diyarbakır following the assassination of Tahir Elçi, president of the local bar association, to document the extremely serious conditions in which they exercise of the defensive function takes place.
“Therefor, we hope that today’s meetings represent the opportunity not only to discuss political and economic issues, but also an opportunity for all the interlocutors of the Turkish President to express their dissent openly against a government that is systematically violating fundamental freedoms by persecuting opponents, minorities and human rights defenders, including lawyers and by denying the principles of the rule of law.”