In a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, the New York City Bar Association expresses “serious concerns regarding the maintenance of the rule of law and the targeting and detention of lawyers in Turkey following recent events there.”
The letter, prepared by the City Bar’s Committee on International Human Rights and Committee on European Affairs and signed by City Bar President Carey R. Dunne, cites a June 11, 2013 incident in which a group of lawyers who were peacefully protesting at the Çağlayan Courthouse were “surrounded by private security and the Çevik Kuvvet, the Turkish riot police, and attacked: dragged on the ground, beaten and kicked. The lawyers were then handcuffed and unlawfully detained for 11 hours in a police vehicle. When the President of the Union of the Turkish Bar Association met with the acting attorney general about the attack and unlawful detention of the lawyers, the attorney general admitted that he had given the orders for the arrest.”
This incident continues “a dangerous and troubling trend of targeting lawyers in Turkey,” according to the letter. “Police have previously used excessive force, including tear gas, in Çağlayan Courthouse and have arrested and detained members of the judiciary without charge.” Moreover, as Gabriela Knaul, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, has pointed out, an increasing number of Turkish lawyers are facing terrorism-related charges. “Indeed, it has been reported that, since the protests began in May, lawyers have been targeted, arrested and accused of terrorism-related activities for peacefully protesting against the government. Both the European Parliament and the special rapporteur have condemned these attempts to punish peaceful opponents to its policies,” the letter states.
According to the letter, the targeting and unlawful detention of lawyers in response to their peaceful protest violates the most basic protections provided by the Turkish Constitution as well as the country’s international obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which states that lawyers should be able to perform their functions “without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”
In the letter, the City Bar echoes the European Parliament’s concerns in a June 13 resolution about “disproportionate and excessive use of force by the Turkish police in its response to the peaceful and legitimate protests,” and joins the European Parliament in calling on the Turkish Government to “immediate[ly] release  all peaceful protestors taken into custody and currently detained” and to ensure that “all detainees have unrestricted access to lawyers of their choice.”
The letter concludes: “The Association respectfully urges you to investigate and end the attacks on lawyers, which have been committed through intimidation, violence and unlawful means. These steps are required under both domestic and international law to maintain the legitimacy of Turkey’s democratic institutions, and to demonstrate your commitment to the rule of law.”
The letter can be read here: http://bit.ly/176btkv
24 June 2013