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Joint oral statement “Attacks on lawyers: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and China”

01 Mar 18 

On 1 March 2018, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) delivered a joint oral statement before the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, in the framework of the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The joint oral statement is titled “Attacks on lawyers: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and China” and it was delivered by ICJ on behalf of a group of organisations that includes ICJ, the Law Society of England and Wales, IBA Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L), Union International des Avocats (UIA), Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), and the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC).

In the statement, the organisations point out the continuous challenges faced by the legal profession in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and China and recommend the UN Human Rigths Council to address worrying developments threatening the rule of law in these countries. The statement reads as follows:

Our organizations welcome that the main report (A/HRC/37/51, para 13) and communications report (A/HRC/37/51/Add.1, e.g. paras 278-297, 431, 508-510) of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders recognizes the role of lawyers as human rights defenders. In this regard, we would highlight the global problem of continued attacks on lawyers and threats to the independence of their profession, including for example as is well known in China (A/HRC/37/51/Add.1, paras 278-297), but also in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

In Azerbaijan, lawyers face criminal prosecution, suspension or disbarment for statements clearly constituting protected freedom of expression. The lack of independence of the Bar Association is a serious concern, even more so now that new legislation prohibits lawyers from representing clients before courts unless they become a member.

In Kazakhstan, a proposed new law threatens the independence of lawyers by providing for representatives of the executive to be included on disciplinary bodies of the legal profession, contrary to international standards.

Finally, the situation of lawyers in Turkey under the current state of emergency is of particular concern. In particular, echoing the recent statement of five UN special procedures mandate holders for his release, we expresses concern at the current detention of Taner Kılıç, lawyer and president of Amnesty International Turkey.

These arrests, trial and disbarments as well problematic legislative changes have a chilling effect on the work of lawyers. They undermine access to effective and independent legal assistance to protect human rights, in contravention of the rights of both the lawyers and their clients, including as mentioned in the report of the visit to Turkey by the Special Rapporteur on Torture (A/HRC/37/50/Add.1, paras 24, 26, 41, 63-66, 71, 101(d)(e)(h), 106(c)).

Our organizations urge the Council to address these worrying developments threatening the rule of law.

Please click here for a PDF of the full statement, and here for a video of the statement. 

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