Legal profession under attack worldwide, with lawyers in Turkey suffering the brunt of it


The legal profession plays a central role in the administration of justice and the defense of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. For instance, lawyers ensure that the right to a fair trial is observed in judicial procedures and help legal and real persons effectively exercise their rights and freedoms. In countless instances, lawyers have played a crucial role in the conduct of free and fair elections and by so doing help protect democracy. However, nowadays, lawyers are increasingly the target of attack both individually and institutionally.

According to a new report by UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Diego García-Sayán that is being presented to the 50th Human Rights Council to be held in Geneva between June 13 and July 8, there is a global increase in practices that undermine, limit, restrict and hinder the practice of law. The report is mainly based on inputs/submissions made by bar associations and human rights NGOs in response to a call circulated in December 2021 by the UN special rapporteur and states that lawyers whose activities are focused on the fight against corruption, the defense of human rights or the protection of groups in vulnerable situations are especially under attack.

The report identifies trends and patterns of undue interference and attack on the legal profession and says: “Those who defend human rights in cases related to national security or corruption are in a particularly sensitive situation. Another issue is the arbitrary identification of the lawyer with his client.” The special rapporteur said he received information indicating that between 2010 and 2020, more than 2,500 lawyers were killed, detained or kidnapped in various regions of the world.

Of course, Turkey is one of most notorious countries for attacks on lawyers. The UN report, referring to The Arrested Lawyers Initiative reports, states that “Between 2016 and 2022, more than 1,600 lawyers were prosecuted and 615 were placed in pretrial detention. A total of 474 lawyers have been sentenced to 2,966 years of imprisonment on the grounds of membership in a ‘terrorist organization’.”


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