Daily Archives: 19/08/2021

Who will defend the defenders in Turkey?


In today’s Turkey, lawyers themselves are being targeted—just for practicing their profession in accordance with the law.

Not long ago, international human rights scholars and experts considered Turkey a promising story of democratic transformation. But both human rights and those who defend them in Turkey are increasingly at risk today. Particularly since the 2016 coup attempt, Turkey has intensified restrictions with a controlled judiciary, systematically targeting those who stand up for democracy. Thousands of journalists, academics, lawyers, and government critics have lost their jobs, have been targeted by smear campaigns, or have been accused in court of terrorism-related crimes or insulting President Erdoğan.

The most vocal parts of civil society are being systematically suppressed in the country. This increases reliance on lawyers who can defend the rights of those who stand up for democracy. However, in today’s Turkey, lawyers themselves are being targeted—simply for practicing their profession in accordance with the law.

Even though the two-year state of emergency following the coup attempt ended in 2018, the country now finds itself in a so-called “normalized state of emergency rule.” This means that certain emergency decrees that should not have effect past the emergency period are still being used, or that after the emergency period ended, new laws were adopted, including the same provisions as those present in emergency decrees, thereby legitimizing the existence of restrictions imposed by the laws. In other words, emergency-like laws, which are not subject to the same checks and balances that a democracy has, are still used to restrict fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey. 

Since 2016, attacks on lawyers have become institutionalized and systematic. Lawyers are investigated, detained, and  no longer feel safe and free when defending their clients in court rooms or police stations. This means that lawyers are no longer able to practice their profession the way they are supposed to in a healthy democracy. 



Iran: Lawyers, Activists Arrested as they Attempt to Sue State for Failed COVID Response


The unlawful arrests of six prominent lawyers and civil rights activists in Tehran as they were preparing to file a lawsuit against state officials for their gross mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic is an indication of the worsening human rights situation under the newly inaugurated President Ebrahim Raisi and new Judiciary Chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei.

“Instead of addressing the skyrocketing numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths amid the lack of safe vaccines, the state focuses on crushing attempts to hold officials responsible for their calamitous pandemic response,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“The Iranian government should be focused on immediately importing as many vaccines as possible,” said Ghaemi. “And the international community should urgently condemn these latest arrests and call on the government to stop trying to muzzle criticism of its policies.”

The arrests took place against a backdrop of the judiciary’s escalating campaign to prevent independent lawyers from seeking justice within the judicial system, which has included dismantling the Iranian Bar Association as well as imprisoning independent lawyers on trumped-up charges.

Arash Keykhosravi (lawyer), Mehdi Mahmoudian (civil activist), Mostafa Nili (lawyer), Leila Heydari (lawyer), Mohammad Reza Faghihi (lawyer), and Maryam Afrafaraz (civil activist) were arrested in Tehran on August 14, 2021, and their phones and other personal belongings were confiscated without a warrant. Heydari was released the following day.

CHRI calls for the immediate release of the lawyers and activists, whose detention is a violation of Article 34 of the Constitution, which states that it is an “indisputable right of every citizen to seek justice by recourse to competent courts. All citizens have right of access to such courts, and no one can be barred from courts to which he has a legal right of recourse.”




Click to access EN_HRL_20210809_Iran_Concerns-over-the-detention-and-sentencing-of-lawyers-in-Iran.pdf