Hagia Sophia (Greek γία Σοφία, Aja Sofia; Turkish Ayasofya) – a mosque in Istanbul, and in the past a Christian temple and a museum. Considered the greatest building and architecture of the first millennium AD.

The original building was built as the Church of God’s Wisdom (also known as the Great Church). It was the highest-ranking temple in the Byzantine Empire, the patriarch’s cathedral and the place of prayers and coronations of the Byzantine emperors, an unmatched model of a perfect temple over the centuries and almost a symbol of the Byzantine Church. Founded by Justinian I the Great, it was built in its present form between February 23, 532 and December 27, 537. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, it was converted into a mosque (then minarets were added). The temple was to be overshadowed by the Blue Mosque built in the 17th century.

From 1934 to July 2020, the temple acted as a museum. After the decision of the Turkish administrative court to invalidate the 1934 decree and the decision of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it was again converted into a mosque.

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey became a secular republic. Consequently, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk ordered in 1934 that the temple, which had served Christians for 916 years and Muslims for 481 years, should be changed into a museum. At that time, carpets were removed from the floor and plaster from the walls, revealing some mosaics. Mainly the mosaics in the upper galleries were exposed, while those in the main nave remained mostly covered. In 2009, the metal stars covering the faces of two seraphim were removed.

In 1979, during his pilgrimage to Turkey, Hagia Sofia was visited by Pope John Paul II, in 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, and in 2014 by Pope Francis.

In 2016, for the first time since the statutory secularization of the temple in 1935, the muezzin intoned an esan inside the temple, the call of Muslims to prayer. The event was broadcast live on the state television TRT. It is assumed that the departure from the secular nature of the museum was ordered by President Recep Erdoğan.

In July 2020, an administrative court in Turkey overturned the 1934 decree transforming Hagia Sofia into a museum. After this decision, the president of this country issued a document stating that from 24 July this place will once again serve as a mosque, i.e. a place of prayer for Muslims.

The authorities of the USA, France and Greece protested against such a decision, as well as Jerome II, head of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, spiritual head of about 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world. Pope Francis also expressed sadness over this decision.

The reason for numerous objections in this matter was the fact that the building was built as a Christian temple, which until 1453 was a place of worship for the followers of Eastern Christianity (from the 11th century Orthodox).

Artur Wierzbicki

FBE Human Rights Commission

Segunda videoconferencia con nuestros miembros “La FBE sigue en contacto #2” 6 de julio 2020

Te informamos que la FBE organizará próximamente una videoconferencia, “La FBE sigue en contacto #2“, durante la cual hablaremos informalmente con nuestros miembros sobre la situación actual y proyectos futuros.

Esta sesión virtual tendrá lugar el próximo 6 de julio a las 17:00 horas. En caso de que estés interesado en participar, te agradeceríamos nos comunicaraa la dirección de correo electrónico a la que deberemos enviar la invitación para la conferencia Zoom (

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – Online conference on the persecution of lawyers in Turkey, June 11, 2020

Law Society of England and Wales, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, Lawyers for Lawyers and the Izmir Bar Association jointly organized the conference with the title: ‘Lawyers rights in peril: A discussion on the challenges to the integrity of the legal profession in Turkey amid the ongoing hungers strikes of the lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal’

The conference brought together lawyers, representatives from the Ankara, Izmir and Diyarbakir bar associations and international lawyers organizations including Lawyers Rights Watch (Canada) and the FBE, and rights defenders to explore and discuss the current situation of lawyers in Turkey and their increasing persecution; the proposed reform of the bar associations and the threats to their independence; the ex-officio investigations that have been started against the bar associations of Diyarbakir and Ankara; the Parole Act exceptions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current situation of the two lawyers from the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği, ÇHD) who have been on a hunger strike for over 100 days.

The conference was in two parts.

 Part 1, moderated by Tony Fisher, Law Society of England & Wales Human Rights Committee.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, Director of the IBA Human Rights Institute Key Note speaker introduced the theme. She addressed the problem of the rise of right wing populism as a response to globalism. Authoritarian regimes which do not protect the rule of law, and attack the free media. Human rights are abused in Turkey in the name of democracy because the government claims they were voted in. Populist leaders find scapegoats for what is going wrong. Gulensism is used as a cover for a power grab. Similar situation in South Africa, Malawi, Philippines and Hungary, where Orban has used covid19 as a power grab on the media. In the US Trump has denigrated the judicial system.

In Turkey there are mass trials, 4200 Judges and Prosecutors in detention, 634 of whom have been convicted and 500 administrative personnel have been dismissed. 34 lawyers’ associations have been shut down. The State of Emergency has been used against the justice system. There has been torture of lawyers.

There are now restrictions on how long a lawyer may spend with their client (law 6749), discussions between lawyers and their clients are tape recorded by the authorities, breaching legal professional privilege and confidentiality.

 Panel Discussion:  General introduction of the situation.  Ministry of Religious Affairs blaming homosexuals and pre – marital sex for the spread of HIV. When bar associations complain the government moves against the, currently introducing changes to the electoral system for bar associations.

 Ozkan Yucel of the Izmir Bar Association.

Lawyers in Izma are fighting fascism. After 9/11 security has been against freedom. Lawyers are the people who are raising tehir voices at the loss of freedoms. The government seeks to divide the big cities and divide the bar associations. The bar associations won’t let it happen, they will defend all lawyers. The consequence is that the bar association will be under investigation. They have tried to intervene in the trials of colleagues.  Spoke about the hunger strikes.

 Meltem Akyol Ankara Bar Association

  • Government has started investigations of the bar association because it published a report about torture and took a case against the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
  • The government is also introducing changes to the electoral procedure (proportional representation) to the bar associations without consultation. There are now multiple bar associations. At present every member is elected by their colleagues individually and not by a list as proposed with the government’s PR system. The government says that bar associations are political. If PR is introduced there will be discrimination, and access to justice will be denied.
  • Independent lawyers will not be able to work with lawyers who support the government.

Cihan Ayain, Diyarbakir Bar Association.

  • Reported on a chaotic situation, discrimination and crime rates are rising, there are very few fair trials. The ECHR functions very slowly and so there is little redress for human rights abuses.
  • The Bar Association is under investigation for press statements, and have received a noitice from the prosecutor. Press statements are used in evidence. This has a “freezing effect” on the activities of the lawyers. In general Turkish people have become more introverted and try not to see what is going on. Even a social media post can be an excuse for raid of houses and arrests. It is not just happening in the Kurdish part of the country, but all over Turkey.


Part Two  moderated by Irma Vandenberg.

Spoke about the altering of the law to prevent lawyers from doing human rights cases.

Didem Baydar Ünsal spoke about the hunger strikers, Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal.

Several Balikaya spoke about the dangers to lawyers who are in prison. The conditions are bad, and there is the risk of covid19.

This was followed by question and  answers.

There were contributions from Catherine Morris and Brian Samuels of Lawyers Rights Watch (Canada) and individual Turkish lawyers.

We were alerted to the recent Ministry of Interior leaflet accusing lawyers who are in prison  and on trial. The leaflet accuses the lawyers of being terrorists. The Supreme Court is still considering their cases and the verdict will come in  2 weeks. The Ministry is asking mainstream media to publish it. The leaflet is clearly designed to influence the decision in the trial.

  • We are asked: to take a stand against this interference with the put pressure through the EU, our own governments and the UN, through a collective effort rather than individual letters.
  • We were asked what are the best steps for escalation of advocacy, what steps within EU and UN?
  • We were asked which countries have the best levers with Turkey who may have influence.
  • How may we maximise the collective efforts of the human rights NGO’s?


 Recommendations for action:

International legal community and the human rights NGO’s should take joint efforts to put pressure on the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior Affairs to cease using the terrorist label against lawyers, to cease interference in the electoral procedure of the bar associations, to cease investigations of bar associations for their statements and legal actions against the government.

Ask the EU and the UN to take action.

Call on UK Government with its special relationship with Turkey to put pressure on Turkey


There were 74 participants in the conference.

FBE participants included:

  1. Artur Wierzbicki, President of the FBE Human Rights Committee / Bar Association of Poznan, Poland
  2. Professor Sara Chandler, QC (Hon) Past President of the FBE and member of the Human Rights Commission
  3. Peter Hannenberg, Dean of the Rotterdam Bar and member of the Human Rights Commission


Report from Conference 11 June 2020, done by prof S. Chandler

CONGRESO GENERAL – Paris, 18-20 Marzo 2021




Distinguido Decano, querido compañero,

En primer lugar, esperamos que tanto Ud. como su familia se encuentren bien durante esta complicada situación.

La pandemia del Covid-19 continúa propagándose severamente en Europa y, concretamente, en Francia la tasa de positividad continúa aumentando. Por este motivo, muy a pesar nuestro, debemos informarles que debido a esta situación sanitaria global, el Colegio de Abogados de París y la presidencia de la FBE han decidido aplazar nuestro Congreso General, previsto para el 1 al 3 de octubre, al 18 – 19 y 20 de marzo de 2021.

No obstante, nos complace informarle que organizaremos un Webinar on-line que tendrá lugar el jueves 1 de octubre de 2020 de 10.00 a 13.00 durante la cual trataremos la situación actual de la Abogacía en Turquía. (Adjuntamos orden del dia)

Así mismo le informamos que las elecciones de la Presidencia se aplazarán hasta la próxima Asamblea General, es decir, el 20 de marzo de 2021. En este sentido, los cargos actuales de la Presidencia están “en funciones”  hasta esta fecha, según lo previsto en los estatutos, con motivo de situaciones excepcionales.

La FBE trabajará incansablemente durante este período difícil, en beneficio de sus miembros y, obviamente, permaneceremos en contacto con los Colegios durante el mismo.

Si continuamos trabajando como una profesión fuerte, unida e independiente, lo superaremos.

En caso que quisiera añadir otro tema en el orden del dia, le agradeceríamos nos lo enviara antes del lunes 21 de septiembre.

Un afectuoso saludo.

Silvia Giménez-Salinas

Presidenta de la Federación de Colegios de Abogados de Europa


Webinar “Robot Lawyers & Virtual Law Firms” – 16th June 2020, 4.30 PM (CEST)

The webinar on Robot Lawyers & Virtual Law Firms is scheduled to be held online on 16th June, 4.30 PM (CEST).

Robot Lawyers & Virtual Law Firms: What will the future hold for us?

The webinar speakers have been organized by Committees for foreign affairs at the Attorney’s Regional Bar Association in Wrocław and Opole (Poland). The speakers will try to answer questions regarding legal technology and artificial intelligence used in a lawyer’s daily work. The webinar will be held  under the honorary patronage of the European Bars Federation (FBE).

We are pleased to announce that the speakers at this event will be María Jesús González-Espejo García (Managing partner at the Instituto de Innovación Legal), Guy Stern (CEO and founder of Legal Connection), Kamil Kwiecień (founder of, Bartosz Frydel (co-founder of SlothEye) and Dr Konrad Szocik (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Information and Technology Management, Rzeszow).

The webinar will be moderated by Izabela Konopacka (President of the FBE New Technology Committee), Joanna Wisła-Płonka (President of Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Bar Council of Attorneys-at-Law) and Maria Dymitruk (Research Centre on Legal and Economic Issues of Electronic Communication). 

The webinar will take place on Zoom and it is free of charge.

If you are interested in participating, please send an email to or join us at

Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals – HELP online courses

The European Programme for Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals in the European Union member states (HELP in the EU) supports legal professionals to enhance their capacities to effectively and coherently apply European fundamental rights standards at the national level and through cross-border training, mainly referring to the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights (the Charter), the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and relevant EU and Council of Europe Law.

The main objective of the Council of Europe Programme on Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) is to enhance the capacity of judges, lawyers and prosecutors, in all 47 Council of Europe member states and beyond, to apply the European human rights standards in their daily work. This is done through the HELP online courses that cover a range of human rights topics.

Legal professionals, who are at the forefront of the protection of human rights, must know the European human rights standards to apply them effectively. Therefore, they deserve high-quality training, which the Council of Europe HELP Programme provides. Furthermore, HELP online courses can be tailored to the different needs of countries, institutions and professionals. Since 2015, other professionals are increasingly interested in accessing HELP courses such as court staff, prison or probation officers or health practitioners.

In one sentence: HELP develops and implements online courses on human rights for legal and other (justice) professionals.

HELP’s three components are:

  • The HELP Network is the only European Network of national training institutions for judges, prosecutors and lawyers in the 47 CoE member States (and beyond).
  • The HELP Human rights online courses for self-study in the HELP e-learning platform. HELP courses (initially developed in English) have the potential to be translated into national languages, adapted to the national legal orders, and tested with selected categories of legal professionals.
  • A human rights training methodology to develop HELP courses that can be later taken in two distinct formats: self-study (free access in the HELP platform) or tutored in groups organised in co-operation with national training institutions or universities.

The Council of Europe HELP e-learning platform hosts our online courses. The courses are free and of the highest quality as they have been developed with the top experts of the Council of Europe, including lawyers from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights. Partners like EJTN, CCBE or FRA also contribute with their expertise.

The access to the HELP e-learning platform is free and open to anyone who creates an account on it. In January 2020 the HELP online platform had more than 43 000 active users.

The HELP online courses are interactive, visual and practical. They cover various human rights related topics, reflecting the different areas of work of the Council of Europe.

Videoconferencia con nuestros miembros “La FBE sigue en contacto” 10 de junio

Distinguido/a Decano/a,

Querido/a compañero/a,

Espero que tu y tu familia os encontréis bien en estos difíciles momentos.

A raiz de la situación mundial del Covid-19, lamentamos comunicarte que hemos decidido posponer nuestro Congreso General de París, previsto inicialmente para los días 2-4 de julio, al 1-3 de Octubre.

El Congreso se centrará en el siguiente tema: “Acceso a la Abogacía y a la Justicia: Colegios de Abogados de Europa y Abogados en primera línea“.

Me complace informarte que hemos incluido dos nuevas sesiones durante este Congreso. En este sentido, nos gustaría felicitar al Barreau de Paris por esta iniciativa, estamos seguros de que estas sesiones serán gratificantes para todos nosotros:

Foro de Convenios de Hermanamiento

El objetivo de este foro será permitir a los Colegios de Abogados poner en marcha nuevas acciones de cooperación así como reactivar los proyectos ya existentes con otros Colegios. En segundo lugar, proponer acuerdos de hermanamiento a los Colegios que aún no han participado en proyectos de colaboración.

Sesión Especial “Pro Bono: ¡el mercado de ideas!”

Esta sesión estará dedicada a actividades Pro Bono para Abogados, descubriendo innovadoras ideas por parte de los Colegios sobre esta materia, con el fin de contribuir al desarrollo de acciones de solidaridad.

Me complace adjuntarte el nuevo “Save The Date” y te agradeceríamos que pudieras reservar estas nuevas fechas en tu agenda.

Así mismo, te informamos que la FBE organizará próximamente una videoconferencia, “La FBE sigue en contacto“, durante la cual hablaremos informalmente con nuestros miembros sobre la situación actual y proyectos futuros.

Esta sesión virtual tendrá lugar el próximo 10 de junio a las 17:00 horas. En caso de que estés interesado en participar, te agradeceríamos nos comunicaraa la dirección de correo electrónico a la que deberemos enviar la invitación para la conferencia Zoom (

Esperamos poder superar esta compleja situación y vernos pronto !

Un fuerte abrazo.

Silvia Giménez-Salinas

Presidenta Federación de los Colegios de Abogados de Europa

Draft amendments to Rules 36 and 44 D of the Rules of the European Court of Human Rights

At its administrative plenary session on 9 September 2019 the European Court of Human Rights provisionally adopted amendments to the Rules Court, following proposals made to it by the Court’s Standing Committee.

Draft amendments to Rules 36 and 44 D of the Rules of Court (approved by the Court on 9 September 2019)

Rule 36 – Representation of applicants

1. Persons, non-governmental organisations or groups of individuals may initially present applications under Article 34 of the Convention themselves or through a representative.

2. Following notification of the application to the respondent Contracting Party under Rule 54 § 2 (b), the applicant should be represented in accordance with paragraph 4 of this Rule, unless the President of the Chamber decides otherwise.

3. The applicant must be so represented at any hearing decided on by the Chamber, unless the President of the Chamber exceptionally grants leave to the applicant to present his or her own case, subject, if necessary, to being assisted by an advocate or other approved representative.

4. (a) The representative acting on behalf of the applicant pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 3 of this Rule shall be an advocate authorised to practise in any of the Contracting Parties and resident in the territory of one of them, or any other person approved by the President of the Chamber.

(b) In exceptional circumstances and at any stage of the proceedings in the examination of an application, the President of the Chamber may, where he or she considers that the circumstances or the conduct of the advocate or other person appointed under the preceding sub-paragraph so warrant, direct that the latter may no longer represent or assist the applicant in those proceedings and that the applicant should seek alternative representation.

5. (a) The advocate or other approved representative, or the applicant in person who seeks leave to present his or her own case, must even if leave is granted under the following sub-paragraph have an adequate understanding of one of the Court’s official languages.

(b) If he or she does not have sufficient proficiency to express himself or herself in one of the Court’s official languages, leave to use one of the official languages of the Contracting Parties may be given by the President of the Chamber under Rule 34 § 3.

 Rule 44D – Inappropriate submissions by, or conduct of, the representative of a party

1. If the representative of a party in the proceedings makes abusive, frivolous, vexatious, misleading or prolix submissions, the President of the Chamber may […] refuse to accept all or part of the submissions or make any other order which he or she considers it appropriate to make, without prejudice to Article 35 § 3 of the Convention.

2. (a) The President of the Court may, in exceptional circumstances, where he or she considers that the conduct of the advocate, or of the person appointed under Rule 36 § 4 (a) so warrant, direct that the said advocate or other person may no longer represent or assist a party before the Court. Such exclusion order may be for a definite or indefinite period.

(b) Such a decision shall be reasoned and shall be taken upon a reasoned proposal by a Chamber, after the person concerned, the Government concerned, and if necessary, the Bar Association, are given the possibility of suggesting comments.

(c) Upon the reasoned request of the person concerned, the President of the Court may, after consulting the Chamber, the Government and any Bar Association concerned, restore the rights of representation.

As an association of Bar associations and Law Societies, the European Bars Federation has been invited to submit its comments (see below in French only) on these amendments. 

The Presidency of the European Bars Federation would like to thank warmly Sara Chandler on behalf of the Human rights commission, Florenzo Storelli on behalf of the Ethics commission and Julien Martin, Avocat at the Strasbourg Bar association, member of its Board and of the Human rights commission of the Strasbourg Bar Association, for their precious contributions.


The report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunji Mijatović, shows that the Hungarian government “violates human rights and employs anti-immigration rhetoric, which feeds xenophobic attitudes, fear and hatred.” The report’s conclusions state that “violations of human rights in Hungary have a negative effect on the entire system of protection (human rights) and the rule of law.” The report was based on meetings with members of the Hungarian government and representatives of civic organizations that took place during Mijatović’s five-day visit to Hungary in February 2020.

The report contains a crushing critic of the Hungarian asylum system, which is organized so as to “systematically reject all asylum applications”. The report also reads about the “abuse of violence” by the police against foreigners. Mijatović calls on Hungary to suspend its regulations introduced in connection with the migration crisis, which are currently not justified, because in 2018 only 671 asylum applications were filed in Hungary (in 2015 a wire-topped fence appeared on the southern border of the country with Serbia wire).

Commissioner Mijatović also alarms that the law in Hungary “stigmatizes and criminalizes” the activities of NGOs. In response to the Mijatović report, the Hungarian government has assured that the country “implements all international obligations regarding the protection of the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.”In addition, Hungarian journalists have not pointed out for some time that some politically sensitive issues are absent from news sites of state TV channels and press agencies. Publishers working in the state media got a list of sensitive topics and any attempt to address them requires sending a sketch of the material to superiors.The heads of state-owned Hungarian media also banned quoting reports from leading human rights organizations.

Hungary is currently subject to the EU’s Seventh Article procedure, which is launched when the fundamental values ​​of the EU are seen as being threatened by the actions of one of the member countries. The European Parliament launched this procedure in 2018, citing media freedom as one of the main concerns. The list of policy topics requiring special pre-publication approval includes “migration, terror in Europe, Brussels, church issues” and parliamentary, presidential and local government elections in the EU (this category includes Europe and some neighboring countries).In practice, what appears in the media is significantly influenced by another body – the Media Services Support and Management Fund (MTVA). This structure, for lack of transparency, is criticized by international organizations analyzing media order in various countries.

On 30th March 2020, the Hungarian Parliament adopted a so-called “coronavirus law”, by claiming that efficiently combating the coronavirus pandemic would require extraordinary measures and the ability to make rapid decisions, should that become necessary. The new law significantly expanded the government’s power during the so-called state of danger regime that was introduced on 11 March in response to the coronavirus situation. State of danger is a special form of extraordinary legal regime which can be only be introduced and withdrawn by the government. While a state of danger is in force, the government can rule by decree and does not need parliamentary approval. It is important to note, however, that at present it cannot yet be known with absolute certainty, whether and how the Hungarian government will use the extra powers granted by the coronavirus law.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned that emergency measures taken by EU countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic must be “limited”. Her warning comes after Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban took on sweeping powers, allowing the Hungarian government to rule by decree.


Informations gathered by

Artur Wierzbicki


FBE Human Rights Commission