Lawyers and local Turkish Bar Associations presidents marched recently in protest against a new draft bill of the governing party AKP.
The symbolic march, from the bar associations’ respective provinces to Ankara, protested against the new law, which is intended to change the electoral system of the chambers and further restrict the independence of the bars and the legal profession.
At the entrance to Ankara, police agents forcibly prevented the marchers from entering the capital.
Following the police intervention, the march quickly turned into a sit-in protest.
Eventually, the march was allowed to continue to Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The new draft bill was presented by the Turkish Government shortly after criminal investigations were launched against the Ankara and Diyarbakır Bar Associations for their recent criticism of Turkey’s president of the Directorate of Religious Affairs.
During a sermon on 24 April, he had said that LGBTQ+ persons were the source for evil and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) has expressed its serious concerns over the recent repression of freedom of expression in the legal profession aiming at further restricting their independence.
In its support, the CCBE has called on:
• The European Convention on Human Rights, in particular article 10 on freedom of expression.
• The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular Principle 16 on guarantees for the functioning of lawyers, Principle 23 on freedom of expression and association and Principle 24 on professional associations of lawyers.
• The Charter of Core Principles of the European Legal Profession which states that “Bars and Law Societies (…) should seek to uphold and protect the core principles in the public interest”. These core principles are notably (a): “the independence of the lawyer, and the freedom of the lawyer to pursue the client’s case”; (i): “respect for the rule of law and the fair administration of justice” ; and (j) “the self-regulation of the legal profession”.
The CCBE calls on the Turkish authorities to withdraw and refrain from taking any measure which would have the effect of hindering the independence, integrity and freedom of expression of the legal profession in Turkey.
The CCBE is recognised as the voice of European lawyers and unites the Bars and Law Societies of 45 European countries, including the 27 EU Member States. Through them, the CCBE represents more than one million European Lawyers.
The CCBE promotes access to justice, respect for human rights and defence of the rule of law.