Public Statement - The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Arrest and Prosecution of Ramazan Demir in Turkey

TORONTO, May 6, 2014 /CNW/ - The Law Society of Upper Canada is gravely concerned about the arrest and prosecution of Ramazan Demir, a lawyer in Turkey who is well-known for his defence of journalists and other lawyers in the Koma Civakên Kurdistan trials.

Ramazan Demir was arrested and charged with "insulting or (...) offending the dignity of a public authority in the performance of his duties" under section 125 of Turkey's Criminal Code. If convicted, Ramazan Demir could face up to two years in prison.

The charges and his arrest stem from his defence of journalists during the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK) trials. In 2012, 44 journalists were arrested on terrorist charges and accused of backing the illegal pan-Kurdish umbrella group KCK. Human rights groups consider the prosecution of these journalists to be part of the government's efforts to curb free speech in Turkey.

During his clients' hearing in Silivri on November 16, 2012, Ramazan Demir rebutted the prosecutor's allegation that the journalists on trial were not independent journalists. He challenged the capacity of the prosecutor to determine that the journalists were conducting activities that were not "normal" or "independent" journalistic activities and requested that the court call and hear expert testimony on the subject.

Six months later, on May 13, 2012, the Special Prosecutor of the 15th Serious Crimes Court filed a complaint against Ramazan Demir regarding his submissions to the court. On September 9, 2013, the Special Prosecutor was authorized by the Ministry of Justice to file an indictment against Ramazan Demir.

Lawyers must be allowed to make statements and submissions that they deem to be relevant for the defence of their clients. In particular, they are entitled to, and should be able to challenge the charges that their clients are facing without having to worry that their advocacy might have negative consequences for themselves.

The Law Society is deeply concerned about situations where lawyers who work for the protection and respect of human rights are themselves targeted for exercising their freedoms and rights under international law. International human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights state that respect for human rights is essential to advancing the rule of law. Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states "governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics". Article 18 states that "lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions".

The Law Society urges the government of Turkey to:

        a.       guarantee all the procedural rights that should be accorded to Ramazan Demir and other human rights defenders in Turkey;
        b.        guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ramazan Demir;
        c.        put an end to all acts of harassment against Ramazan Demir and other human rights defenders in Turkey;
        d.       ensure that all Turkish lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations; and
        e.       ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for 46,200 lawyers and 6,200 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada, and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in their effort to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.

SOURCE: The Law Society of Upper Canada

For further information:

please contact Lisa Hall at 416-947-7625 or lhall@lsuc.on.ca.

The Law Society of Upper Canada
Osgoode Hall
130 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON  M5H 2N6


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