Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, issued the following statement today (28 March) on the proceedings against Turkish lawyers in Istanbul:
I am concerned about the trials of lawyers in Istanbul, which were continued today. I call on the Turkish authorities to release the imprisoned lawyers immediately and to halt the proceedings.
Protection of legal rights is an essential element of a country governed by the rule of law. Every defendant has the right to a lawyer, and lawyers are part of the administration of justice. They are not responsible for the crimes committed by their clients. Equating lawyers with their clients is not acceptable and contravenes international principles. Quite the opposite, in a country governed by the rule of law, lawyers must be allowed to practice their profession free from outside influences. They may not be arrested in connection with doing their job.
I welcome the Turkish Government’s efforts toward reform in the judicial sector aimed at strengthening the rule of law in Turkey. The most recent reform provides for strengthening the rights of the accused, speeding up court proceedings and shortening pre-trial detention periods. However, these reforms must be put into practice and anti-terror legislation must be reformed as well.
In November 2011, 46 lawyers were arrested in the context of the so-called KCK trial. They are accused of being members of the alleged PKK structure and thus members of a terrorist organization. On 28 March, the proceedings against them and others will be continued in Istanbul.
Turkey’s parliament is currently debating the so-called fourth judicial reform package, which also includes a reform of anti-terror laws.