New Zealand Law Society - Threat to rule of law in Turkey condemned

Threat to rule of law in Turkey condemned

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The ongoing widespread persecution of lawyers, journalists, judges and prosecutors in Turkey has been firmly condemned by three European organisations.

A joint statement by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the European Federation of Journalists, and the European Association of Judges urges the Turkish government to take a number of actions.

These include restoring an independent judicial system in accordance with the rule of law, upholding the rule of law and democracy, and guaranteeing to all citizens the fundamental right of access to justice and access to a lawyer.

The organisations say that after the failed coup of 15 July 2016, thousands of judges and prosecutors and hundreds of journalists and lawyers have been dismissed from jobs.

"A widespread censorship of media has been put in place and hundreds of civil society organisations have been shut down. Several lawyers' associations and the independent judges' Association YARSAV have been closed down and their assets have been seized or frozen without compensation.

"Currently there are around 2000 (out of 4088 dismissed) judges and prosecutors, 350 lawyers and 150 journalists and media workers being detained, with a further 867 lawyers being prosecuted. Most of them are being targeted solely for carrying out their professional activities, on the basis of alleged accusations of supporting terrorist organisations."

The statement says the decree laws which have been adopted undermine the right of the defence, in anti-terror legislation related cases, the detained have no access to a lawyer for the first five days of police custody, and this right can be suspended for up to six months.

"When access to a lawyer is authorised, lawyer-client confidentiality is violated: clients' interviews in prisons are recorded and often take place with the presence of a police officer in the room, and documents are confiscated and checked."

An independent judiciary is an essential component in upholding the rule of law in a free society and lawyers play a fundamental role in ensuring the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the statement says.