The publication of the 2019 edition of the report Arrested Lawyers Initiative on the repression of lawyers in Turkey, curated by the Consiglio Nazionale Forense, is one of the many initiatives undertaken for 2020, declared “Year of the endangered lawyers across the world”. Cases of violence and repression against lawyers, who are threatened, hurt, killed, or unfairly arrested and convicted only for having freely and diligently defended their clients, are not, alas, limited to a small number of States, but constitute an expanding and ever more concerning phenomenon in different geographical areas. Despite the current global emergency caused by the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we decided to publish the report on Lawyers Day, celebrated in Turkey every 5th of April.
The Consiglio Nazionale Forense has been following closely the situation of Turkish lawyers, especially of those who are detained, some since many years, following court proceedings often held in spite of the basic rules of fair trial and those of international conventions, for example, resorting to prosecution witnesses who had their face covered or their voice distorted, and without any cross-examination by the defence. The C.N.F. is concerned with this issue also through the action of the International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger, founded in 2016 together with the French, Spanish and Parisian Bar Association, today counting more than 30 Bar Associations as its members, 12 of which are Italian.
Through constant contact with free or exiled Turkish lawyers, such as the members of the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, the monitoring of some of the major trials held in Turkey has been set up by sending “observers” to attend court hearings or by deploying fact-finding missions to jails, in order to raise awareness among lawyers and the public opinion, and by publishing reports, which often are the only reliable source of information. In some cases, support to lawyers applying for asylum in an EU Country has been provided, assisting them throughout the application process and helping them coping with first needs.
The reading of this report provides a quick, yet accurate picture of the price that Turkish lawyers, together with journalists, academics and human rights defenders in general, are paying in their fight for the freedom to exercise their profession and the rule of law.
We will always stand by their side, aware that their struggle and their sacrifices testify of a determination to defend not only their rights, but those of all of us.
Avv. Andrea Mascherin
President of the Consiglio Nazionale Forense