Turkey: Immediately Release and Withdraw Charges against Taner Kilic and other Lawyers | Joint Letter

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July 4, 2017

H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
President of the Republic of Turkey
T.C. Cumhurbaşkanlığı Genel Sekreterliği
06100 Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 468 5026
Email: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr

Re: Arrest and Detention of Lawyer Taner Kiliç and 22 additional lawyers

We write on behalf of the Law Society of Upper Canada* and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) ** to voice our grave concern over the arrest and detention of lawyer Taner Kiliç and 22 additional lawyers. When serious issues of apparent injustice to lawyers and the judiciary come to our attention, we speak out.

Taner Kiliç, lawyer and human rights defender, has served as the chair of Amnesty International Turkey since 2014 and has been on the board of the organization since 2002.

It has come to the attention of the Law Society and LRWC that on the morning of June 6, 2017, the Anti-Terror Branch of the Izmir police searched Taner Kiliç’s home and his office.  The police then took Taner Kiliç into custody.

Since his arrest, Taner Kiliç has been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization.”  Authorities claim that they discovered Bylock, a secure mobile messaging application, on Taner Kiliç’s phone in August 2014.  Authorities say Bylock was used by members of what they have labelled the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” to communicate.  No evidence has been presented to substantiate this claim.  Moreover, Taner Kiliç states that he did not download or use Bylock and had not heard of it until it was mentioned during recent arrests and prosecutions.

According to Human Rights Watch, on June 9, 2017, Izmir Criminal Pace Judge No.3 ruled to remand Taner Kiliç in pre-trial detention.

Reports also indicate that 22 additional lawyers were detained in Izmir.  According to Amnesty International, on June 9, 2017, eight lawyers were remanded in pre-trial detention, one was released on bail, seven were taken to the courthouse at the same time as Taner Kiliç and are awaiting decisions on their cases and six remain in police custody.

Human rights organizations note that the arrests of Taner Kiliç and the 22 additional lawyers are the latest in a series of human rights defenders, journalists, academics and activists detained in Turkey.  The media has reported that since July 2016, authorities in Turkey have arrested approximately 50,000 people and fired or suspended 150,000 people.

The Law Society of Upper Canada and LRWC urge Your Excellency to comply with Turkey’s obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ (UN) Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Article 18 states:

Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.

Article 23 provides:

Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.

Furthermore, as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)[1], the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)[2], Turkey is legally obligated to ensure that individuals within its territory enjoy, without discrimination, rights to: be presumed innocent, freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, pre-trial release and to trial within a reasonable time and the right to obtain a remedy in relation to any violation of these rights. As Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, the relevant recommendations of the Committee of Ministers on pre-trial detention and release also apply.

Arrests and detentions by Turkish authorities must comply strictly with the requirements of the ICCPR and the ECHR. The European Court of Human Rights has held in relation to the lawfulness of arrest and detention, that “lawful” and “in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law” in Article 5(1) of the ECHR requires,

not only full compliance with the procedural and substantive rules of national law, but also that any deprivation of liberty be consistent with the purpose of Article 5 and not arbitrary… In addition, given the importance of personal liberty, it is essential that the applicable national law meet the standard of “lawfulness” set by the Convention, which requires that all law, whether written or unwritten, be sufficiently precise to allow the citizen – if need be, with appropriate advice – to foresee, to a degree that is reasonable in the circumstances, the consequences which a given action may entail… [3]

Similarly, the UN Human Rights Committee has clarified that “remand in custody pursuant to lawful arrest must not only be lawful but reasonable in all the circumstances”[4] and that “[p]re-trial detention should be an exception and as short as possible”[5] and must be lawful, reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances, “for example, to prevent flight, interference with evidence or the recurrence of crime”.[6] The Human Rights Committee, affirmed that pre-trial detention should remain the exception and that bail should be granted,

except in situations where the likelihood exists that the accused would abscond or tamper with evidence, influence witnesses or flee from the jurisdiction of the State party”… The mere assumption by a State party that the author would interfere with the investigations or abscond if released on bail does not justify an exception to the rule in article 9, paragraph 3, of the Covenant.[7]

The Law Society and LRWC urge the Government of Turkey to:

  1. immediately and unconditionally withdraw all charges against Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers;
  2. immediately and unconditionally release Taner Kiliç and the additional 14 lawyers who are in pre-trial detention or remain in police custody;
  3. guarantee all of the procedural rights that should be accorded to Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers in accordance with their right to a fair trial;
  4. ensure that Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers are afforded regular access to their lawyers and family;
  5. put an end to all acts of harassment against Taner Kiliç, the additional 22 lawyers and all other lawyers in Turkey;
  6. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Taner Kiliç and the additional 22 lawyers;
  7. ensure that all lawyers in Turkey can carry out their professional duties and activities without fear of reprisals, physical violence or other human rights violations; and
  8. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments, including the ICCPR and the ECHR.


Yours truly,


Paul B. Schabas                                                             Gail Davidson

Treasurer                                                                       Executive Director, LRWC

*The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.

The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

**Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”) is a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law by providing support internationally to human rights defenders in danger. LRWC promotes the implementation and enforcement of international standards designed to protect the independence and security of human rights defenders around the world. In its work, LRWC campaigns for lawyers whose rights, freedoms or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy; produces legal analyses of national and international laws and standards relevant to human rights abuses against lawyers and other human rights defenders; and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC is a non-governmental organization with Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.



H.E. Mr. Selcuk Unal
197 Wurtemburg Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 8L9
Fax: +1 (613) 789-3442
Email: embassy.ottawa@mfa.gov.tr

Ankara Bar Association
Adliye Sarayi
Ankara 6251, Turkey
E-mail: ankarabarosu@ankarabarosu.org.tr

Istanbul Bar Association
Orhan Adli Apaydin Sokak
Baro Han K:2 34430
Fax: +90 (212) 293 89 60
E-Mail: information@istanbulbarosu.org.tr

Azat Yildirim
President of the Mardin Bar Association
13 Mart Mahallesi İl Müftülüğü Arkası 48. Sokak No:8
Fax: 0 482 212 18 76
Email: info@mardinbarosu.org.tr

Union of Turkish Bars
Karanfil Sokak 5/ 62
06650 Kizilay
Ankara, Turkey
E-mail: admin@barobirlik.org.tr

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Email: chrystia.freeland@parl.gc.ca

Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Andrew Anderson, Executive Director, Front Line Defenders

Emma Achili, Head of European Union Office, Front Line Defenders

Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Farida Deif, Canada Director, Human Rights Watch

Adrie van de Streek, Executive Director, Lawyers for Lawyers

David F. Sutherland, Chair, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Hina Jilani, President, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human

Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur of the Human Council on the independence of judges and lawyers, Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights
E-mail: SRindependenceJL@ohchr.org

Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Email: freedex@ohchr.org

Marina Brilman, International Human Rights Policy Adviser, The Law Society of England and Wales

[1] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 Dec. 1966, U.N. Doc. A/6316, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force 23 March 1976, online at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm.

[2] European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 222, entered into force 3 September 1953, online at:

http://conventions.coe.int/treaty/Commun/QueVoulezVous.asp?NT=005&CM=7&DF=24/ 07/2012&CL=ENG.

[3] Steel and Others v. the United Kingdom (App. No. 67/1997/851/1058), judgment of 23 September 1998, Reports 1998-VII, p. 2735, at para. 54.

[4] This is from the LRWC paper of 13 July 2012, “Arrest and Detention of Lawyers in Turkey,” para. 19, which does not seem to have an accurate citation for this particular quote.

[5] CCPR General Comment No. 8, supra note 31, at para. 3.

[6] Communication No. 458/1991, Albert Womah Mukong v. Cameroon, at para. 9.8.

[7] Communication No. 1178/2003, Aleksander Smantser v. Belarus, at para. 10.3.