15 May 2018

The Bar Council of England and Wales and the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) have written jointly to Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to voice concerns over Turkey’s ongoing and large-scale prosecution of judges, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders with the Turkish President when the two meet on Tuesday.

The letter, which has also been copied to the Lord Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary, is the second such letter that the Bar Council and BHRC have written to the UK Prime Minister on the injustices in Turkey. The legal bodies refer to further information that, since the failed coup in 2016, 2431 (out of 4560 dismissed) judges and prosecutors, 580 lawyers, and 319 journalists and media workers have been arrested; an estimated 1000 judges and prosecutors, 400 lawyers and 180 journalists and media workers are still detained; and more than 5,966 judges, prosecutors and lawyers are facing prosecution.

Andrew Walker QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

“The seriousness of what legal professionals and human rights defenders have been – and continue to be – subjected to in Turkey cannot be overstated. The impact reaches internationally. This is a significant threat not only to those individuals affected, but also to the fundamental principles of the rule of law, without which a truly fair and democratic society cannot exist, and which authorities are duty-bound to protect.

“We have previously highlighted this turbulent state of affairs, both in the media and directly to the Prime Minister, and it is a reflection of the urgency of the situation that we do so again, in the hope that an end can finally be brought to these injustices. We cannot stand by in the face of the wholly unjust suppression of the fundamental rights of our fellow lawyers, and we strongly urge the Prime Minister to express the serious and continuing concerns of the international community to President Erdoğan when they meet.”

Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chair of BHRC, commented:

“Recently, I carried out interviews with judges and prosecutors who have fled different parts of Turkey. The evidence gathered included attempts to compromise their independence. Upon refusal to comply, they were dismissed, suffered raids upon their houses and had their assets frozen. They escaped before the danger of being arbitrarily detained and subjected to ill-treatment and torture was realised. This danger is on the increase in Turkey with judges now dying in prison.

“The judges and prosecutors I met are representative of the thousands of lawyers, judges, journalists, teachers and human rights defenders purged from their family lives in Turkey. The rule of law is being misused as a weapon to undermine the law.

“We as lawyers support the fundamental right of lawyers, judges and journalists to act without State interference and to act for those, judge those and report upon those who may be subject to government disapproval.

“If the meaning of democracy is to retain any credibility, the Prime Minister is under a duty to raise objection to Turkey’s continued crackdown on its people and to seek its compliance with international law.”