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Who will Defend the Defenders in Turkey?

18 May 2021

Who will Defend the Defenders in Turkey?

Human rights belong to everyone. But those who work to ensure that we can claim our rights are increasingly harassed, threatened, or jailed. In Turkey, the climate is particularly worrying. While the human rights record of the country has long been worrisome, since the 2016 coup attempt, all critical human rights defenders – irrespective of their views and background – find themselves  at risk. Since then, thousands of government critics have been sacked, imprisoned, and charged with terror-related or libel crimes. As pressure against human rights defenders, including against feminists, LGBTI+ rights defenders, academics, environmentalists, journalists, and civil society activists, has increased, so has the harassment and persecution of those who defend the defenders: lawyers. Lawyers play a crucial role in defending human rights as they defend those whose rights have been violated or abused, including human rights defenders who have been prosecuted for their legitimate and peaceful work to advance human rights and democracy.

In this context, the Truth Justice Memory Center (Istanbul) and the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (Istanbul), in collaboration with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (The Hague), and in consultation with Lawyers for Lawyers (Amsterdam), are launching  a report entitled, “A Defenceless Defence.” This report provides an analysis of the situation of lawyers in Turkey, focusing specifically on instances of persecution and limitations on lawyers’ rights, and showcasing the acts of resilience and resistance that have arisen in the face of these increasing challenges.

The report will be launched at a dedicated event on Thursday, 20 May 2021 at 14:00 (CET), where participants will speak about the

  • Research behind the “A Defenceless Defence” report;
  • Stories of human rights lawyers and solidarity movements;
  • Implications of the increasing rights violations of lawyers in Turkey;
  • Threats posed by legislative amendments to the independence of bar associations in Turkey; and,
  • Importance of persistent attention from international multilateral and bilateral governmental side and of civil society solidarity movements.

Join us and register here:

Speakers will include:

  • Benan Molu, lawyer
  • Diego García-Sayán, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
  • Kemal Aytaç, lawyer and member of the Progressive Lawyers Association (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği)
  • Nacho Sánchez Amor, Turkey Rapporteur for the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee
  • Özlem Zıngıl, lawyer and works at the Truth Justice Memory Center
  • Sezin Uçar, lawyer and member of the Law Bureau of Oppressed Released (Ezilenlerin Hukuk Bürosu)
  • Sophie de Graaf, Executive Director of Lawyers for Lawyers

The event will be moderated by Kirsten Meersschaert, Programme Manager – Human Rights Defence, Netherlands Helsinki Committee.

Simultaneous interpretation will be provided.