Joint Statement: We Do Not Give in to Threats against Lawyers and Rights Defenders



23 May 2023


AKP deputy-elect Süleyman Soylu, who continues to make statements at the ministerial level even though his term as minister of interior has ended, said in a statement on 21 May 2023: “When the PKK’s lawyers are locked up, then you will see there will be no more of PKK in Turkey. They are the target. It is that loud and clear.”

Because the defense -which is one of the fundamental constituent elements of the judiciary- and many lawyers who advocate for rights want to transform the law from being a cudgel of the rulers into a fundamental tool of struggle for the peoples, because they struggle for democracy and justice for the oppressed and exploited peoples, oppressed opposition bodies and civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, students; because they advocate for women, children and the LGBTI+ and continue to pursue their rights under all circumstances, because they struggle to replace the biased, dependent, stigmatizing and phobic legal system with a pro-freedom legal perspective, they are subjected to judicial threats and harassment from time to time due to the aggressive and marginalizing language and attitude of the political power.

Parallel to the acts of rights violations in prisons that leave prisoners breathless, the targeting of rights lawyers and those from legal organizations working to promote prisoners’ rights is an effort to leave prisoners without lawyers and to deepen the policy of violations to this end. It is not the first time that Süleyman Soylu has made statements accusing lawyers of providing legal support and thus criminalizing their work.

We see that the unlawful pressure and judicial harassment of lawyers on the grounds of their professional activities have increased in recent years. Mr. Soylu made similar statements about the Amed-based operation just before the 14 May 2023 elections, within the scope of which 25 lawyers were taken into custody while 4 were subsequently detained.

In the May 14th election operations, the will of the electorate was targeted as a whole by taking lawyers into custody and detaining those who would work in the field to ensure election security and protect the will of the people to reflect their preferences in the ballot box.

In fact, the special protection and support of lawyers as rights defenders are guaranteed by international conventions and documents. All over the world, lawyers are regarded as indispensable elements of a democratic order that respects human rights. They have cautionary and supervisory functions against rights violations arising from both laws and practices. It is totally unacceptable for lawyers to be criminalized, targeted, subjected to administrative or judicial harassment, detained, arrested or convicted, and subjected to judicial threats while carrying out their legitimate activities that do not involve any criminal element, in violation of national and international law, simply because they criticize the decisions and actions of public authorities and related third parties/institutions.

Throughout history and all over the world, lawyers have been the targets of kings, dictators, despots, and fascists but they have never bowed down.

We respectfully announce to the public that we will defend rights and stand in solidarity with all rights defenders in the struggle against unlawful operations against lawyers in the face of the oppressive and monist political power targeting lawyers to reinforce its antidemocratic regime.




Lawyers for Justice

Progressive Lawyers Association

Lawyers for Democracy

Human Rights Association

Lawyers for Freedom

Social Law