On Thursday 4 November at the Law Hub, Amsterdam, Lawyers for Lawyers hosted PEN Norway’s panel discussion on the rule of law and freedom of expression in Turkey.
PEN Norway’s Turkey Indictment Project final reports were the subject of the panel discussion at which lawyers Veysel Ok and Ümit Büyükdağ gave their views on the ongoing crisis in the rule of law in Turkey and reflected on their own indictments in the study.
Chaired by PEN Norway Turkey Legal Adviser, lawyer Ceren Uysal, the panel discussed the reasons for the study of 22 indictments by PEN Norway and in particular the two indictment reports authored by Lawyers for Lawyers’ Jaantje Kramer and Stella Pizzato.
Lawyers for Lawyer’s President, Irma van den Berg made opening remarks, calling the indictment reports, ‘a great project for PEN, Turkey and lawyers.’ She was followed by PEN Netherlands’ Writers in Prison committee member Froukje Santing who highlighted the importance of PEN’s global work, as centres, on freedom of expression, defending writers and journalists and on the rule of law.
When asked by the chair of the panel what it was like defending clients with such flawed indictments as the basis of the case, human rights lawyer, Secretary General of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association and Adana lawyer Ümit Büyüdağ said, “It’s difficult to defend clients if there is no solid legal document in terms of an indictment. We’re at the stage too now, where we are being investigated just for defending our clients. Things we say in their defence in the courtroom become the basis of prosecutions against us.” Speaking of how the PEN Norway indictment reports have been used in Adana she said, “We remind the judges that when European observers are the in room their words and decisions will be translated and transmitted worldwide. We use the indictment reports to train young colleagues and I would like PEN Norway’s reports to be given also to judges and prosecutors.”
Lawyer Veysel Ok spoke about the recent arrests of more than 30 Kurdish journalists in recent months, saying, “We still have to explain to European NGOs that these journalists were only doing their job and that they are not terrorists.” He spoke of Lawyers for Lawyers’ report for PEN Norway on his own indictment as a lawyer in a freedom of expression case, saying, “We added your report to the Constitutional Court application in my case. These reports are also records for the future of what happened in these years in the judicial system in Turkey.” He urged European NGOs to do more in terms of global advocacy and trial monitoring. “We appreciate support from the west,” he said, “but we would like our colleagues to do more. We are giving a very strong fight for democracy and the rule of law here in Turkey every day,” he said.
Chair of the panel, Ceren Uysal asked PEN Norway Turkey Adviser Caroline Stockford to discuss recent hearings she had observed in Turkey, including the recent case against the platform, ‘We will stop the killing of women.’ Stockford bemoaned the lack of political will in Turkey to implement concrete and lasting legal reforms and to ensure the independence of Turkey’s judiciary.
Uysal closed the panel by mentioning PEN Norway’s Gezi Park trial monitoring and forthcoming booklet on 5 years of the Gezi trial which includes interviews with all jailed defendants and will be published in the coming weeks.