Every Friday since November, a group of activists founded by Turkish lawyers in Europe have gathered before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as part of the ‘Movement for Unconditional Justice’. Their goal: bring Turkey’s judicial plight and rights violations to the attention of Europe’s top human rights court.
“Detaining lawyers has become routine practice in Turkey, deepening the climate of fear and repression across the country. Lawyers are also coming under physical, sometimes fatal, attack,” warns Stefan Simanowitz of Amnesty International
Turkish lawyers have been among the primary victims of an ongoing government crackdown implemented in the aftermath of the failed military coup back in 2016, in which 250 people were killed. The Turkish government accuse them of representing clients who had links to the network behind the coup, with President Tayyip Erdogan speaking last September of the need to ‘cut the road from lawyer to terrorist’. Straight after his speech, 115 lawyers from different groups were detained. Over the last decade, Turkish courts have handed down 2,728 years of prison sentences to 441 attorneys.
Roisin Pillay, Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that ‘lawyers should never be arrested or sanctioned for representing their clients, or identified with their clients’ causes.’
The detentions are just one facet of an ever-escalating series of hurdles placed before the country’s lawyers.