The CCBE has granted the Human Rights Award for 2016 to four Turkish lawyers, who have been particularly active in the defence of human rights and the rule of law in Turkey, read more here.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued a memorandum on the 2 December urging Turkey to take measures for investigating all allegations of human rights violations during imposed curfews and anti-terrorism operations. The Commissioner expressed, inter alia, “deep concern about attempts by the authorities to vilify the activities of human rights NGOs and lawyers bringing to attention allegations of human rights violations which occurred in zones cut from the rest of the world where there were no independent observers”.
On the 6 of December The International Commission of Jurists also stated its concerns on the situation in Turkey after the attempted coup, and “calls on the Turkish government to take urgent steps to guarantee the independence of the legal profession, protect lawyers from arbitrary detention or arrest and provide procedural safeguards to ensure the right to fair trial of lawyers under criminal investigation”.
On 19 August 2016, the CCBE wrote a letter to President Erdoğan to express its concerns regarding the situation of lawyers in the country following the coup attempt of 15 July.
On 26 July, the Adana Bar Association reportedly released a statement referring to the “fear” and “concern” about possible reprisals felt by lawyers in Adana, the decision made by some not to provide legal assistance to people detained in relation to the failed coup, and the negative treatment they faced from the police and prosecutors if they represented the detainees. On 28 July, the CCBE was informed that about 50 lawyers were held incommunicado in Istanbul, with no access to legal representation. The CCBE was also made aware of the cases of lawyers Deniz Sürgüt and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, respectively tortured in detention and banned from travelling.
Furthermore, the CCBE expressed concerns about a government decree of 27 July allowing prosecutors to bar detainees from meeting with a lawyer during the first five days of police custody. A decree published on 23 July had already placed restrictions on the right to private communications with lawyers for suspects in cases of terrorism and organised crime, and reserved the authorities’ right to appoint another lawyer to represent the detainee.
A copy of the letter can be acessed here.
On 26 July 2016, together with the European Bars Federation (FBE) and the International Association of Lawyers (UIA), the CCBE has issued a joint statement expressing concerns over the disregard for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Turkey, in the aftermath of the failed coup and the state of emergency which was recently declared.
The organisations are extremely alarmed by the ongoing purge within the judiciary. They recalled that there can be no derogation from the following articles: Article 2 (Right to life), Article 3 (Prohibition of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment), Article 4 para. 1 (Prohibition of slavery), Article 7 (No punishment without law).
The CCBE, FBE and UIA underline that any statement by President Erdoğan that he would allow for a reinstatement of the death penalty is contrary to Turkey’s obligations under international law and its membership in the Council of Europe.
The CCBE has been following the alarming developments that have recently taken place in Turkey. In the light of this, it has written a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express its serious concern over the events of Friday 15 July 2016 which led to a significant number of deaths, and more than 1,000 people being wounded. In addition, the CCBE stressed that the dismissal of 2,745 judges will seriously undermine the independence of judiciary. In this context, the CCBE calls for effective steps to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in Turkey.
On 30 June 2016, the Turkish Parliament passed the draft “Law on the Amendment of the Codes of the Supreme Court and the Council of the State and other Codes”. As a result, all members of the Supreme Court and of the Council of the State will be shortly dismissed and replaced. The new law will also introduce changes into the system of appointment. New magistrates will have to be appointed by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which is reportedly made up of government-backed members. Furthermore, 24 members of the Council of State will be directly appointed by the President.
The CCBE is concerned with the impact that this new legislation will have on the independence of the judiciary at all levels, thereby undermining the separation of powers, the right to a fair trial and, more broadly, the rule of law.
For further information, please see the letter written by the CCBE on its concerns related to the recently adopted law.
The CCBE has been following closely the situation of members of the Libertarian Lawyers’ Association (ÖHD) in Turkey
In March 2016, nine Turkish lawyers belonging to the ÖHD were arrested after the police raided their homes. The lawyers were detained for three days, and could not attend the trial of one of their client, Abdullah Öcalan, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Shortly after their release, Hüseyin Bogatekin was detained again for a few days, along with Ayse Gösterişlioğlu. On 6 April, the police arrested Ramazan Demir and Ayşe Acinikli, who remain in detention. As the investigation files have been classified as confidential, no information is yet available concerning the charges against the two lawyers.
On 23 February 2016, the CCBE sent a letter to the Turkish authorities supporting the Union of Turkish Bar Associations’ request to strengthen the training of lawyers in Turkey.
In Turkey, in order to become a fully-fledged lawyer, law graduates need to complete a practical traineeship of one year. There are no further requirements, such as a bar exam.
In its letter, the CCBE noted that a robust training system is of utmost importance. The lawyer cannot effectively advise or represent the client unless the lawyer has had the appropriate professional education and training. All CCBE member countries provide for rules and requirements relating to who is able to practice. In general terms, these rules relate to specifying the necessary knowledge, skills, and competences of the applicant (such as a need to pass a test or professional examination or requirements in relation to minimum training and experience) and/or are based on various requirements associated with the character of the applicant. As far as Bar exams are concerned, an EU financed study of June 2014, which was prepared in the framework of the European Parliament Pilot project on European judicial training, shows that nearly all EU countries require a bar examination.
The CCBE urged the authorities to review the training requirements for future lawyers in Turkey, noting that only a high level of competence supported by a robust training system can guarantee high-quality services.
Turkey has a population of approximately 78 million and 87 000 lawyers (in 2015). The Union of Turkish Bar Associations was set up in 1969 and has been an observer/associate member of the CCBE since 1995.
Key information about the profession:
- Initial training of lawyers: Generally, the duration of undergraduate education in law schools in Turkey except the ones which has obligatory preparation class is 4 years. The overall duration of traineeship period is one year: the first six months are spent in courts under the authority of judges and prosecutors, the second six months are spent in a law office under the supervision of a lawyer who at least has five years of experience. There is no bar exam in Turkey.
- Continuous training: There is no compulsory continuous or permanent training for lawyers in Turkey.
- Specialisation: There is no regulation with regard to specialisation in Turkey.
- Discipline: All local bars in Turkey are self-regulatory disciplinary bodies. There is a “Disciplinary Board” in each bar association. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations also has a Disciplinary Board which is the authority for complaints. After the final decision, it is possible to apply to the Administrative Court.
- Legal Aid: According to Turkish law, real persons, public benefit associations and foundations are all entitled to legal aid. Legal aid provides to its beneficiary: i) temporary exemption from all the judicial and enforcement proceedings expenses, ii) exemption from assurance regarding judicial and enforcement proceedings expenses, iii) other necessary expenses arising from judicial and enforcement proceedings to be paid in advance by State, iv) providing an attorney, whose fee to be paid later. A request for legal aid will be made to the legal aid office or its representatives at the enforcement court where the proceedings take place. If the request for legal aid is rejected, the requestor may apply to the president of the bar association verbally or in writing. The decision of the president of the bar association will be final. In the criminal procedures, all proceeding costs shall be covered by the state.
Current concerns of the Bar and main challenges in the coming years:
- The number of law faculties is increasing, however there are not enough lecturers which leads to a decrease in the quality of education.
- Laws passed by the Parliament which do not lead to certainty and predictability of the law.
- Turkey is the only country in Europe which does not have an examination for becoming a lawyer therefore this situation makes elimination impossible, as well as making the need to uphold the dignity of the profession and control of the quality of services difficult.
- Pressures against lawyers and the profession because of the general political conditions of the country.
- Uncontrolled number of lawyers in Turkey which lowers the quality of profession.
- Due to internet technology, the tendency to provide web-based legal services which lowers the quality of services and causes uncontrolled quality of services. It also prevents in-person contact and causes problems with regard to the tax related matters and unfair competition.
- As the interdisciplinary practices (accountants and lawyers) intensify day by day, this situation causes a decrease of control over the legal profession’s monopoly on the practice of law.
Today, the CCBE wrote a letter to the President of Turkey, Mr Tayyip Erdoğan expressing its shock and consternation over the killing of Mr Tahir Elçi in Sur on 28 November 2015. Mr Elçi was a Turkish human rights lawyer and President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association.
In the letter, the CCBE condemned in the strongest terms the killing of Mr Tahir Elçi and respectfully urged Mr Tayyip Erdoğan to launch a full and impartial investigation into his killing with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards. In addition, the CCBE asked to guarantee in all circumstances that all lawyers in Turkey are entitled to freedom of expression, and able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation, or harassment.
The CCBE would also like to express its support and solidarity with Mr Tahir Elçi’s colleagues at the Diyarbakır Bar Association, and with all Turkish lawyers.
The full letter can be found here.