Turkey: The situation of lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey since July 2016 | Written Statement to the 38th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

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Item 4 – Human rights situations that require Council’s attention

Written Statement by Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada an NGO in Special Consultative Status to the 38th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

The situation of lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey since July 2016

The situation of judges, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders (collectively referred to as HRDs) in the Republic of Turkey (Turkey) previously of concern,1 has deteriorated dramatically since the 15 July 2016 attempted coup. Since then, thousands of HRDs have been subjected to widespread, systematic human rights violations for peacefully exercising internationally protected rights to freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and participation in public affairs, and for engaging in lawful professional activities as judges, lawyers, journalists and advocates.

United Nations (UN) human rights treaties ratified by Turkey include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT). Turkey has legal obligations to guarantee rights and freedoms for all individuals within its territories and subject to its jurisdiction, including:

  • Equality before the law (ICCPR Articles 7, 2, 10);
  • Freedom from arbitrary detention (ICCPR Articles 3, 9);
  • Expression (ICCPR Article 19);
  • Association and assembly (ICCPR Article 20);
  • Legal representation (ICCPR Article 14 (3));
  • Notice of charges (ICCPR Article 14.3 (b);
  • Freedom from ex post facto charges (Article 15);
  • Fair and public determination of criminal charges and rights by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal
    (ICCPR Article 14.1);
  • Freedom from torture and ill-treatment (ICCPR Article 7 and UNCAT);
  • Remedies for violations (ICCPR Article 2.3.


States of emergency may not lawfully be used indiscriminately or indefinitely. Turkey has not provided clear evidence of the necessity of suspending internationally protected rights of thousands—judges, prosecutors, lawyers, journalists and others—subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, illegitimate charges, denial of due process, unfair trials, and torture and ill-treatment.

LRWC requests the Human Rights Council to urge Turkey to:

  • Repeal the state of emergency declaration and Decree;
  • Release all HRDs arbitrarily detained;
  • Restore the professional independence of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and journalists;
  • Authorize an official visit by the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to investigate the professional independence and security of judges and lawyers in Turkey and make pertinent recommendations.