Closing the Doors to Justice in Turkey

February 14, 2012

In a recent blog, my colleague, Bill Jones, noted the ways in which the Turkish government has targeted Kurdish lawyers as part of its general crackdown on political dissent in Turkey.  These arrests, he points out, are in violation of UN agreements and represent a violation of basic human rights.  But conditions seem likely to get worse before they get better.

A draft law is currently working its way through the Turkish Parliament that will further curb the capacity of lawyers to meet with their clients.  The law was developed primarily to limit communications between imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, and his lawyers, forty-seven of whom were arrested this past November.  Apparently, claiming that the ferry to İmralı Island, where Öcalan is incarcerated, is “out of order” is no longer considered sufficient.

The draft law, which has largely passed unnoticed by domestic and international observers, promises to be yet another tool by which Turkey will be able to limit the rights of prisoners.  It would effectively give the government the right to ban prisoners’ access to lawyers for up to six months.  Needless to say, all of this is likely to further violate international agreements regarding the treatment of prisoners.

Clearly, the primary goal of this bill is to isolate Öcalan from his lawyers and family.  The repercussions, however, extend beyond this one case.  Over the past several years, Turkey has shown an increasing willingness to use the full power of the state against all manner of critics.  Thousands are imprisoned, including lawyers, journalists, students, and university professors.  Many have languished in pre-trial detention for years.

Human rights are in retreat in Turkey and this bill promises to be yet another weapon in the Turkish government’s war on dissent.

If you are interested in the issue of Human Rights in Turkey, consider joining us on our Turkey Regional Action Network on Facebook.