New Zealand Law Society - Lawyer groups tell Turkey to respect rule of law

Lawyer groups tell Turkey to respect rule of law

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The Presidents of Law Associations of Asia (POLA) have expressed deep concern over the recent developments in Turkey in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt.

POLA has issued a statement following its 2016 Summit in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, recently.

New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck was among the presidents who prepared and issued the statement. Ms Beck attended the summit, along with representatives of 11 other lawyers’ associations as well as Presidents of the International Bar Association, LAWASIA and Inter-Pacific Bar Association.

Following the attempted coup of 15 July, the Turkish High Council of Judges and Prosecutors announced the dismissal of 2,745 judges who are alleged to have been involved in the attempt.

POLA’s statement notes that judges have been removed from office and detained in Turkey, and a large number of lawyers have similarly been either detained or prevented from discharging their professional duties and functions.

“While POLA is not in a position to comment on the factual aspects of the events that have occurred in Turkey, it is nevertheless deeply concerned that, whatever the circumstances, there should be no undue restraint on the legal profession or the judiciary preventing them from acting independently,” it says.

“POLA takes note of the United Nations Basic Principles on the role of lawyers, especially paragraph 16, which says: ‘Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidations, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics’.”

POLA says whatever the circumstances, it urges the Turkish authorities to follow the UN Basic Principles in letter and spirit “because that is the only way the international community can rest assured that the rule of law still prevails in Turkey.”

The POLA statement is one of many that have been made by lawyer organisations around the world expressing concern about the rule of law in Turkey

“The dismantling and restructuring of Turkey’s judiciary by the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in direct contravention of international legal norms and principles, as well as Article 138 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, and must end,” the International Bar Association (IBA) said in a statement released on 27 July.

“Further, the IBA leadership calls on President Erdogan to reinstate recently dismissed judges and prosecutors, including two members of the Constitutional Court and 10 members of Turkey’s highest administrative court.

“As the culling of judges, prosecutors, journalists and members of other organs that constitute a democratic society continues, following the attempted coup … and the space in which Turkey’s citizens can voice dissent evaporates, IBA President David Rivkin calls for President Erdogan to halt the arrests and limit the damage to the proper administration of justice in Turkey caused by his actions.”

“President Erdogan’s fierce and unrelenting assault on Turkey’s democratic institutions in violation of international law and the nation’s Constitution has removed any credibility for his actions,” Mr Rivkin says.

“The prosperity of a country is intrinsically linked to the rule of law and to a strong, independent judiciary and legal profession,” Law Society of England and Wales President Robert Bourns has said in a statement.

“The rule of law enables business and is fundamental to the cohesion of a powerful and diverse society. Stable legal institutions, an independent judiciary and a government accountable to the people are fundamental elements of a nation which is deeply rooted in the rule of law.

“Given the importance of judicial independence, no member of any judiciary should be dismissed or suspended except for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties, in accordance with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.”

ABA President Paulette Brown says the ABA calls on Turkey’s government to ensure respect for the rule of the law as it restores order.

“While uncertain times can bring about confusion, justice in accordance with procedural safeguards are an integral part of any democracy. We respectfully ask the government of Turkey to ensure fairness and impartiality in accordance with its own laws and international standards as it responds to the crisis.”

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