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A Defenseless Defense

Writer: Faruk Eren

Publication Date: 2021

Publisher: Hafıza Merkezi - The Truth Justice and Memory Center, Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, Netherlands Helsinki Committee

Translator: Sebastian Heuer


Currently we find ourselves in an environment in Turkey where international human rights and constitutional regulations are violated every day. This report documents how the right of defence, one of the fundamental principles of the right to a fair trial, is directly affected in such a political environment.

In times when many human rights defenders (HRD) —from women’s rights defenders to Academics for Peace, environmental activists to lawyers, and journalists to members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)— have become targets, we want to draw attention to the pressure lawyers face. Lawyers play a crucial role in defending human rights, as they defend those whose rights have been violated or abused, and defend HRDs who have been prosecuted for their legitimate and peaceful work to advance human rights and democracy. It can be seen in Turkey that lawyers are being targeted in connection with the clients they represent. As the focus of this report lies on lawyers – the defenders of defenders – Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) has also provided its expertise in this field for this report.

This report contains two main sections, one describing the persecution and limitation of rights that lawyers have increasingly been subjected to in Turkey, and a second one outlining resistance against these developments by the lawyer community. This report was prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic; thus, interviews and data collection for the report were conducted digitally. This implies some research problems, e.g. not all the intended interviews could be realised. However, reliable data has been obtained from bar associations and lawyer groups under attack. This was complemented by information presented in legal documents, e.g. indictments, rulings and case transcripts, and by critical media articles.

Click here to download the report.