The arrest of human rights lawyers in Turkey ‘strikes at the heart’ of democratic values and has ‘seriously undermined’ the rule of law, the Bar chair has said.
The Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) and the Bar Council have expressed ‘deep concern’ over the recent treatment of lawyers by the Turkish authorities.
Nine human rights lawyers, known for their work in representing minority groups and people accused of terrorism and crimes against the state, were arrested in police raids on their homes.
Following their arrest, riot police attacked the lawyers who were representing their detained colleagues during a press conference on the steps of the courtroom.
Although subsequently released, the nine remain under prosecution on undisclosed evidence in breach of fair trial rights.
The Bar Council said the arrests were a breach of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
Its chairman, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: ‘The recent mass arrest and detention of lawyers in Turkey strikes at the heart of our most fundamental civil and democratic values.
‘A mandatory component of the rule of law is that people who are accused of crimes may be represented by a legal representative. The rule of law is, therefore, seriously undermined when lawyers are persecuted for, and prevented from, carrying out their duties.’
Kirsty Brimelow QC, chair of the BHRC, said: ‘The arrest of nine defence lawyers on the day before the trial of the 47 defence lawyers they were to represent is Kafkaesque in its extreme contempt of the rule of law and due process.’
The BHRC called on the Turkish authorities to take urgent action to remedy the ongoing breaches of international law and the ‘deep erosion’ by the state of the rule of law.