The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which represents the bar associations and law societies of 46 European countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers, on February 14 called on Turkey to take all necessary measures to guarantee that all lawyers in Turkey are able to carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation or harassment in order to preserve the independence and integrity of the administration of justice and the rule of law.
In a statement endorsed by 16 law organizations and bar associations operating around the world, the CCBE said they deplore the recent arbitrary designation of lawyer Günay Dağ as a “terrorist.”
“Günay Dağ is a lawyer at the International Bureau of the People’s Law Office and a member of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD). On 30 December 2022, he was added to the list called “list of wanted terrorists” published on the official website of the Ministry of Interior. For the past three years, Günay Dağ has been a political refugee,” the statement said.
The Turkish Interior Ministry and the terrorist list it updated at the beginning of the year offer a bounty for information that leads to the apprehension of the 971 suspects being sought.The list also includes journalists, athletes, civil society leaders and civil servants purged from their jobs following a controversial coup attempt in 2016.
The CCBE argued that the listing entails serious consequences for the person concerned, who faces serious risks of imprisonment, stigmatization and other human rights violations.
The CCBE’s statement:EN_HRL_20230213_Turkey_Statement-about-Gunai-Dag
According to the statement, the list lacks a proper legal basis for its implementation. “There is no legal provision that regulates who can be put on the list, how persons may be removed from the list nor how the executive authorities may decide establishing such a list, nor how it is managed. The initiation and administration of the list is therefore arbitrary, contravening the principles of legality,” the CCBE added.
In the conclusion, the undersigned organizations call on the Turkish authorities to stop identifying lawyers with their clients or the causes they defend, including by putting an end to their listing them as terrorists without due process or a fair trial.
“Additionally, we urge the Turkish authorities to remove lawyer Günay Dağ and all other lawyers from the ‘list of wanted terrorists’ since their inclusion to this list is based on their legitimate activities as lawyers.”
Nordic Monitor previously published a UN report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by Diego García-Sayán, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, which stated that more than 1,600 lawyers were prosecuted and 615 were put in pretrial detention between 2016 and 2022. Four hundred seventy-four lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 2,966 years in prison on the grounds of membership in a “terrorist organization”.
In April 2022 the American Bar Association, the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world, said in a statement that Turkish lawyers continue to be arrested, charged, tried and imprisoned for doing their jobs.
According to another report titled “The Crackdown” and released by The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, an advocacy group defending lawyers’ rights, 474 lawyers had been sentenced to a total of 2,966 years in prison for terrorist group membership or disseminating terrorist propaganda as of December 2021.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targets in particular lawyers who are affiliated with the Gülen movement, a group that is critical of the government on a range of issues, or those who represent people associated with the movement. In some cases, lawyers become targets themselves because of those cases.
Lawyers who are involved with the Kurdish political movement are also targeted by the Erdoğan government.
The imprisonment and prosecution of lawyers has dealt a huge blow to the independence of the legal profession and prevented Turkish lawyers from freely conducting their work in Turkey.
What is more, Turkish authorities routinely violate lawyers’ right to privacy by breaching attorney-client privilege and bring new charges against both lawyers and their clients based on confidential conversations that took place as part of defense preparations. The practice undermines the right to a fair trial.
Many lawyers hesitate to take the cases of government critics and opponents over fears that they could be targeted and imprisoned on similar charges. In some cases, lawyers demand huge fees to accept such cases because of the risk associated with the clients.