Despite public outcry in July, the Turkish government has passed a controversial bill which changes the Turkish Bar Associations election procedures.
The main purpose of this legislative amendment is to disempower bar associations in larger cities in the country.
Bar associations are fierce critics of the government and their violations of human rights. The amendment paves the way for heavily biased new associations consisting of pro-government lawyers.
Until this new legislative amendment, pro government lawyers had failed to form new bar associations, despite overwhelming support from the government.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government seeks to get rid of remaining obstacles to the cementing a one-man regime. Reducing the representation of dissident lawyers at the national Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) is of these steps.
A confrontation between the government and Ankara Bar Association took place in April 2020 over the discriminatory remarks of a public official about LGBT community. Following this, President Erdoğan immediately said that they will change the law on lawyers.
There was outrage from the Bar Associations about the proposed legal changes who in response, arranged a series of events to protest the planned changes. The events culminated in a “Defense March” where the presidents of the most progressive local bar associations, representing a large majority of lawyers in Turkey, marched to the capital Ankara.
On October 2, the Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a circular on postponing all the assembly activities in the country until December 1, 2020. This was enforced under the pretext of enforcing Coronavirus pandemic measures.
The president of the Ankara Bar Association, Erinç Sağkan, described this declaration as “a political decision” which specifically targets the general assemblies of the bar associations’.
Bar associations are public legal entities alongside being a professional body. These interferences to their structure breaches the principle protecting the right to an effective remedy in Turkey.
Solidarity with Bar Associations means defending the right to defend democratic society.