Pressure mounts on Prime Minister to raise barristers' concerns with Turkey

16 May 2018

The Bar Council of England and Wales and the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) have written jointly to Prime Minister Theresa May, urging her to voice concerns over Turkey's ongoing and large-scale prosecution of judges, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders with the Turkish President when the two meet on Tuesday.

The letter, which has also been copied to the Lord Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary, is the second such letter that the Bar Council and BHRC have written to the UK Prime Minister on the injustices in Turkey.

The legal bodies refer to further information that, since the failed coup in 2016,  2431 (out of 4560 dismissed) judges and prosecutors, 580 lawyers, and 319 journalists and media workers have been arrested; an estimated 1000 judges and prosecutors, 400 lawyers and 180 journalists and media workers are still detained; and more than 5,966 judges, prosecutors and lawyers are facing prosecution.

Andrew Walker QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:

"The seriousness of what legal professionals and human rights defenders have been - and continue to be - subjected to in Turkey cannot be overstated.  The impact reaches internationally.  This is a significant threat not only to those individuals affected, but also to the fundamental principles of the rule of law, without which a truly fair and democratic society cannot exist, and which authorities are duty-bound to protect.

"We have previously highlighted this turbulent state of affairs, both in the media and directly to the Prime Minister, and it is a reflection of the urgency of the situation that we do so again, in the hope that an end can finally be brought to these injustices. We cannot stand by in the face of the wholly unjust suppression of the fundamental rights of our fellow lawyers, and we strongly urge the Prime Minister to express the serious and continuing concerns of the international community to President Erdo─čan when they meet."

Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chair of BHRC, commented:

"Recently, I carried out interviews with judges and prosecutors who have fled different parts of Turkey. The evidence gathered included attempts to compromise their independence. Upon refusal to comply, they were dismissed, suffered raids upon their houses and had their assets frozen. They escaped before the danger of being arbitrarily detained and subjected to ill-treatment and torture was realised. This danger is on the increase in Turkey with judges now dying in prison.

"The judges and prosecutors I met are representative of the thousands of lawyers, judges, journalists, teachers and human rights defenders purged from their family lives in Turkey. The rule of law is being misused as a weapon to undermine the law.

"We as lawyers support the fundamental right of lawyers, judges and journalists to act without State interference and to act for those, judge those and report upon those who may be subject to government disapproval.

"If the meaning of democracy is to retain any credibility, the Prime Minister is under a duty to raise objection to Turkey's continued crackdown on its people and to seek its compliance with international law."


UPDATE: The response to this letter from the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan MP, can be read here.

Notes to editors

1. The letter to the Prime Minister can be read here and the supporting annex of information is here. The Bar Council's previous press releases relating to the situation in Turkey can be found here and here.

2. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and /

3. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad. 

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.

4. About the Bar Human Rights Committee 

  • BHRC was founded in 1991, by the former Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Anthony Scrivener QC.  

  • BHRC is the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales, working to protect the rights of advocates, judges and human rights defenders around the world. The BHRC is concerned with defending the rule of law and internationally recognised legal standards relating to human rights and the right to a fair trial. It is independent of the Bar Council.