Press release July 28, 2020
Turkey: New Law on Bar Associations an Attack on Freedom of Association
The parliament’s new legislation will dilute the influence of associations that defend human rights and due process in Turkey.
In response to the adoption of a new law in Turkey that would alter the landscape and functions of bar associations, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“It is disheartening to see legislation that will undermine the independence of the legal profession in Turkey,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “In Turkey, bar associations are one of the few remaining independent oversight mechanisms dedicated to ensuring independent and fair legal representation in court. We regret to see Turkey following in the footsteps of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Tajikistan in their attack on bar associations, other legal institutions, freedom of association, and the wider rule of law. We urge the Turkish government to consider repealing this law before it comes into effect, and we encourage Turkish courts and bar associations to maintain a principled, independent stance.”
On Saturday, July 11, the Turkish parliament adopted a law that fundamentally transformed the structure of bar associations across the country. Prior to the legislation’s passage, only one bar association was allowed to represent the lawyers in each province. By opening the provinces to additional bar associations, the new law allows for the artificial creation of competitors, diluting the voices of existing organizations within the Union of Turkish Bar Associations. The new law also threatens to have a strong impact on regions with especially strong and independent bar associations.
Turkish bar associations have long been seen as some of the country’s remaining apolitical institutions, with their ability to challenge the government on issues of human rights and fairness. They also maintain Turkish lawyers’ objectivity and fairness in line with principled approaches to the rule of law, and provide vital support when individual lawyers are targeted by the government.
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