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Lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal
Ebru Timtik

01 Sep 2020 / rule of law Print

Law Society shock over Turkish lawyer’s death

The Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has said it is deeply shocked by the death of Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik on 27 August after a 238-day hunger strike.

The Kurdish lawyer weighed only 65 pounds when she died in hospital. 

The Law Society of Ireland has joined the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) in expressing shock at the death on hunger strike of imprisoned Turkish lawyer Ebru Timtik.

It has also urged the Turkish government to ensure a fair trial for her imprisoned colleagues.

Ms Timtik and her colleague Aytaç Ünsal were respectively sentenced to 13 years and six months, and 10 years and six months in prison for alleged terrorist-related offences.

They were among 18 Turkish lawyers sentenced to prison terms for the alleged offences.

Concerns

“From the outset of their trial, many incidents occurred that raised concerns about the impartiality and independence of the proceedings,” said Law Society President Michele O’Boyle.

“In their fight for a fair trial and better administration of justice in Turkey, Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal began hunger strikes in early 2020 and, on 5 April 2020, announced their intention to turn their strike into a death fast,” she said.

Ms Timtik died on 27 August after almost 240 days of hunger strike. The Law Society of Ireland has joined with the CCBE, a council of representatives of over a million lawyers across Europe, to call on the Turkish authorities to save Aytaç Ünsal, and ensure he receives a fair trial.

On behalf of the Law Society, Ms O’Boyle has signed an open letter to lend support to the cause of the Turkish lawyers.

Timtik’s tragic death demonstrates that Turkey needs to “credibly address” its human rights situation and the “serious shortcomings in the Turkish judiciary,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano also said.

Judicial harassment

Since 2017, several Turkish lawyers belonging to the Progressive Lawyers’ Association and the People's Law Office, among them Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, have been victims of judicial harassment.

The CCBE says the hunger-strikers have fought for justice and the rule of law and have defended:

  • Opponents of the Turkish Government,
  • Families of miners massacred in Soma and Ermenek,
  • Populations expelled from their homes as victims of urban transformation,
  • Families of citizens killed under torture in police stations and prisons, and
  • Those prosecuted for expressing their opinions, including civil servants, workers and defenders of freedoms.

“For exercising their legitimate activity as a lawyer, these lawyers have been accused of being members of a terrorist organisation under Turkey’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws and have, therefore, been the subject of legal proceedings,” the CCBE said in a statement.

Fair trial

“They did not receive a fair trial as guaranteed by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.”

The absence of a fair trial led to the hunger strike of Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, the CCBE has said.

“The Turkish authorities failed to prevent the death of Ebru Timtik, despite appeals and medical reports concluding that they should not remain in jail.

“Aytaç Ünsal is still on hunger strike today and must not suffer the same tragic end as Ebru Timtik.”

CCBE president Ranko Pelicarić of Croatia continued: “Ebru Timtik died in her struggle for justice. This is immensely sad and unacceptable.

“Lawyers play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law, and promoting and protecting human rights.

“This week is the 30th anniversary of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Sanctions

“Turkey must take into account and respect the Basic Principles within the framework of its national legislation and practice by ensuring that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.”

The CCBE has urged the EU and the Turkish authorities to do everything in their power to save the life of lawyer Aytaç Ünsal and to guarantee him a fair trial.

All lawyers in Turkey must be able to carry out their professional duties to preserve the independence and integrity of the administration of justice and the rule of law, the CCBE stated.

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