Turkish citizens are resorting in vain to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in ever greater numbers, as trust in their domestic courts erodes, the Law Society of England and Wales said today in a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review of Turkey on behalf of an international coalition of legal organisations.
’Judges’ and prosecutors’ independence has been systematically undermined in Turkey since the failed coup in 2016,’ Law Society president Simon Davis said. ’Hundreds of judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been arrested, detained and convicted on charges of terrorism without credible evidence.
’Lawyers have been identified with and punished for their clients’ causes. More than 1,500 lawyers have been prosecuted, hundreds of them in mass trials,’ he said. Lawyers who can still practise report intimidation and threats.’
Davis said that this menacing environment undermines the right of every citizen to legal representation and a fair trial, which may explain why Turkish citizens submitted more than 57,000 petitions to the European Court of Human Rights in 2017.
According to the submission, Turkey’s chilling roll call of injustice includes:
- 57,039 petitions to the ECtHR in 2017 from Turkish citizens, 25,000 of which rejected for failure to exhaust domestic remedies
- 4,260 judges and prosecutors dismissed
- 634 judges and prosecutors convicted on terrorism charges
- 1,546 lawyers prosecuted, 311 sentenced to a total of 1,967 years in prison
- 599 lawyers arrested and detained
’Turkey must protect the independence of lawyers, judges and prosecutors – in legislation and in practice – so that they can perform their professional duties without intimidation and improper interference,’ Davis said. ’The rule of law and the independence of the legal profession are essential foundations for political, social and economic stability.’
He said that the Law Society and the international legal profession will continue to support colleagues working in difficult conditions and do whatever it can to help restore meaningful access to justice in Turkey.