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April 05, 2024

Statement of ABA President Mary Smith RE: Lawyers' Day in Turkey

CHICAGO, April 5, 2024 — The American Bar Association stands united today with lawyers and legal professionals across the globe in observing Lawyers’ Day in Turkey.

Each year, April 5 is dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the unwavering dedication and indispensable role of legal practitioners in fostering justice, defending the rule of law and safeguarding individual rights in Turkish society.

Recent reports have starkly illustrated the adversity and troubling decline in independence Turkey’s legal profession faces: Since 2016, over 553 lawyers have been collectively sentenced to 3,380 years in prison. This grave statistic, reported in February by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute and The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, underscores the severe repercussions faced by legal professionals for simply doing their jobs. The report details the distressing frequency of unfair trials, arbitrary detainment and harassment, alongside the egregious misuse of counterterrorism legislation to unjustly prosecute lawyers engaged in legitimate professional duties. Such practices not only undermine the legal profession but also erode the very foundation of justice and the rule of law.

The ABA’s commitment to protecting the independence and safety of lawyers in Turkey and worldwide remains resolute. Lawyers and other legal professionals are afforded special protections under the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and the U.N. Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

We urge the global community to join us in our commitment to protect lawyers from persecution, championing their right to freely promote justice and the rule of law, so that those who stand on the front lines of legal advocacy are shielded from retaliation and protected and free to exercise their critical duties without fear of reprisal. Together, we can uphold the principles of fairness, equity and legal integrity across the globe.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.