Today, the global bar groups rallied in support of the rule of law on the “International Day of the Endangered Lawyer.” The international effort is designed to draw attention to the thousands of lawyers and judges killed or imprisoned each year as they fight for basic legal rights in countries from China to Iran to Venezuela. However, no bar is more devastated than the one in Turkey where thousands of lawyers have been imprisoned and tortured for fighting the authoritarian regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Despite the praise from our president, Erdogan has continued a comprehensive campaign against the free press and political dissidents. This campaign however first required the elimination of thousands of lawyers to eradicate the rule of law to make way for his brutal religious-based authoritarian rule.
We previously discussed how Turkey’s rising dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was likely to use the failed military coup to complete his objective to become a virtual dictator (backed by Islamist parties). That dire prediction appears to be fast becoming true with a roundup of thousands and the declaration of a state of emergency. Turkish academics have also been banned from leaving the country as well as the replacement of academic deans. Of course, Erdogan has offered his usual Orwellian rationization for the three-month state of emergency as necessary to protect civil liberties by suspending them “to eliminate the threat to democracy in our country, the rule of law, and the rights and freedom of our citizens.” With that, and the support of his Islamist allies who passed sweeping new powers for the budding Sultan, Erdogan suspended civil liberties in Turkey.
The impact on the Turkish bar has been horrific. What is equally disgraceful is the fact that some lawyers have been willing agents of Erdogan’s effort to destroy secular and legal protections to impose an Islamic autocratic system.
The Federal Bar Association has taken a lead in the effort to support our colleagues in Turkey and other countries. My friend, the Honorable Delissa Ridgway. Judge Ridgway, has played an instrumental role with other leaders like FBA President Maria Z. Vathis.
While people love to stereotype lawyers and ridicule the profession, thousands of Turkish lawyers have sacrificed their freedom and in some cases their lives to resist the tyranny of Erdogan. Even as their colleagues were torn from their homes, other lawyers stepped forward to take their places.
Here are a few of the pieces written about the global effort this week to rally people internationally in support of the rule of law.
Turkey sacks 107 judges, prosecutors over links to failed coup: media (Reuters, May 5, 2017)
Turkey’s purges are crippling its justice system (The Economist, May 20, 2017)
Inside Turkey’s Purge (New York Times, April 13, 2017)
Turkish Trial of Lawyers is a Mockery of Justice (Jurist, October 4, 2018)
Executive Summary, U.S. State Department’s Annual Country Report on human Rights Practices: Turkey (2018)
Turkey’s Erdogan to build more prisons as post-coup purge persists (NBC News, Sept. 18, 2018)