Turkey’s bar associations warn against perceived impunity in joint statement

(Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

A total of 63 bar associations across Turkey have released a joint statement calling on the government to repeal laws that create a perception of impunity among the public by granting lenient sentences to criminals, the Evrensel newspaper reported on Monday.

The statement pointed out recent cases where criminal offenders responsible for acts that caused widespread public outrage were revealed to be free despite having prior criminal records.

The bar associations underlined that the object of criminal law is the safeguarding of society against crime through prevention and deterrence and that a number of recent amendments to the provisions on the execution of sentences, including one that allowed for the early release of convicts during the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it impossible for the authorities to enforce the laws and prevent crime.

“The aim of criminal enforcement is not to create a perception of impunity,” the statement said. “On the contrary, it is to ensure the monitoring of individuals even after the execution of their sentences in a way to facilitate their rehabilitation. Divergence from this goal leads to an increase in crime rates, jeopardizes peace in society and public order and erodes the public trust in the rule of law.”

Turkey’s authorities are often accused of inaction in the face of violent crimes such as murders and femicides.

In some cases, the alleged perpetrators are only taken into custody after widespread public outcry on social media, leading to comments such as “Twitter court.”

The climate of impunity is also reinforced by the lenient sentences handed down by the courts after a decrease in the public interest.

The country’s notoriously crowded prisons had come to prominence at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led the government to pass legislation allowing for the early release of inmates.

Yet, the law was criticized for allowing for the release of violent offenders back into society while discriminating against political prisoners with no record of violence on the grounds that they were convicted of “terrorism affiliation.”

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