The FBE Human Rights Commission, not indifferent to the situation observed in Turkey over the years, began the Turkey Trial Observation Project over two years ago.
The FBE has expressed its support for the rule of law and freedom of speech in Turkey for many years. Over the past 10 years, six resolutions have been adopted in support of respect for human rights in Turkey in the widest sense of the area. FBE members regularly support all initiatives to protect human rights in Turkey by participating as observers our colleagues’ lawyers and journalists trials in Turkey.
The FBE Human Rights Commission has also actively joined these activities not only by participating in the trials as the observers, but also by conducting various discussions with other lawyers, officials, taking part in bilateral meetings, petitioning various types of petitions, supporting resolutions or appearing as a speaker at congresses in Turkey (“Dark Side of the Moon”/September 2018).
“In July 2019 lawyers from France, Greece, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands (Peter Hanenberg/Nardy Desloover) observed several hearings in Istanbul (Turkey). All cases were criminal cases against lawyers who are accused of terrorist related activities. In the three particular cases, the lawyers involved all share the same line of defence: they were representing and defending clients and – therewith – were doing nothing else than fulfilling their duty as a defence lawyer.
Since (roughly) 2011 there have been numerous cases against professionals who have allegedly acted in favour of terrorists or criticasters of the Turkish regime. Amongst them lawyers, but also journalists, academics, judges, union leaders et cetera. Lawyers have to face the governmental starting point: If you help or assist someone who is critical or even a (supposed) terrorist, you yourself are acting as a terrorist. Thereby the Havana Rules (f.i. article 18: Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes…) are trampled or – more mildly worded – ignored.
Many lawyers have been (or still are) detained in pre-trial custody for many years (up to 5 years!). Recently, in March 2019, lawyers were convicted to long time prison sentences (up to 19 years!). Evidence often looks thin and stories about manipulation of proof are persistent. Exercising one’s legal profession is a hazardous activity.
Especially because the eminent function of the legal profession is at stake, it is of great importance to monitor hearings against lawyers. It is important to show solidarity with the lawyers involved and to hammer continuously on the importance of the (independent) legal profession and its essential role in the rule of law.
Therefore, trial observation is only a part (though important) of the unfolded activities. Discussions are frequent with the local and national Bar associations, as well as with representatives of all kind of law firms. Impartiality – not regarding the rule of law, but – in the cases pending is important. Though all foreign lawyers sympathise with the accused, we don’t express prepossession. We do not interfere in the question whether a persecuted lawyer is guilty or not guilty, but we do express and emphasize that identification of a lawyer with his or her client is a gross negation of the Basic Principles as laid down in the Havana Rules. Drawing attention to those principles can never be excessive.”
The above report was made in cooperation with our Friend Mr Nardy Desloover (lawyer in Rotterdam/the Netherlands) who works tightly with us.