Arrest of Turkish lawyers sparks global outrage

Campaigners have called on the Turkish government to comply with international principles following the arrest of a further 15 lawyers in the country last week.

The human rights committee of England’s Bar Council said it was ‘extremely concerned’ following the arrest of the lawyers, which adds to the November 2011 detention of 46 lawyers, who are now being prosecuted on charges alleging association with a terrorist organisation.


According to the English barristers, nine of those held last week are members of the Progressive Lawyers Association, which is affiliated to the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights. That association has links in the UK, with several members active in the bar’s committee.
The lawyers are believed to have been arrested because of their representation of those accused of crimes against the state and terrorism, and ethnic minorities.
According to the bar council, the arrests ‘appear to be in breach of the United Nations basic principles on the role of lawyers’.


The committee cited principle 18, which provides that ‘lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions’, while principle 20 sets out that ‘lawyers shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith or in their professional appearances before courts and tribunals.’
The human rights committee called on Ankara – which has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -- to comply in full with its obligations and to implement the UN basic principles. It has added that the authorities should bring forward a reasoned case against the lawyers as soon as possible, and to afford them an effective right to bail, in accordance with the European convention.

Zimbabwe concerns

Elsewhere, the director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Irene Petras, has attacked the prosecution and alleged defamation of lawyers in the country.
‘Lawyers get arrested and are defamed through the newspapers but this will not deter us. We are often associated with cases that our clients are involved in and people regard us as criminals,’ Ms Petras told The Zimbabwean newspaper. ‘Some people do not regard us as professionals and label us MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] lawyers, which is really pathetic. My duty is to ensure that people receive a fair trial regardless of their political affiliation.’
She added that human rights violations often increased elections, but she hoped the authorities would allow lawyers to work without interference during a round of forthcoming  polls this March.
‘Human rights lawyers have not been spared violence and arbitrary arrests during election time, yet running away and hiding is not an option. We have to keep going,’ she said.

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