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Eren Keskin

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Turkish attorney Eren Keskin, Human rights defender, threatened of removal from the profession

 The International Observatory for lawyers in Danger (OIAD) expresses its deep concern about the situation of Eren Keskin, lawyer and emblematic figure of human rights in Turkey who is under a request for removal from the Bar from the Turkish President.

Eren Keskin is an Istanbul Bar attorney and Vice-President of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD). She is also the co-founder of the Legal Aid project for women who have been raped, or sexually abused, including in police custody.

For more than thirty years, this lawyer has taken all risks in her fight for fundamental rights, especially for women and minorities. [...]

Invested in the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), it is alongside this organization that since the 1990s, she conducts investigations on burned down Kurdish villages, punitive expeditions against the deadly guerrillas and disappearances. Twice, in 1994 and 2001, she is the target of narrowly avoided armed attacks. The use of the word “Kurdistan” in an article earned her one year in prison in 1995 and one year of prohibition from practicing as a lawyer. Today, she faces 143 different lawsuits conducted against her.

Arrested in August 2016 along with the Turkish author Asli Erdogan, great voice of Turkish literature, because of her chronicles published in the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, she faces life sentence for “propaganda” and “belonging to an organization terrorist “.

She is also sentenced to fines of up to 800,000 Turkish liras (200,000 euros) that she began to pay thanks to a campaign of support launched by the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Human Rights Foundation (TIHV).

The exorbitant number of legal proceedings against her testifies to the obvious harassment she is the object of.

It is in this context that the Turkish President’s lawyers filed a request to the Istanbul Bar at the beginning of February 2018 for Eren Keskin’s disbarment on the ground notably of the non-payment of the above-mentioned fines, and inflicted for “propaganda”, “undermining the territorial integrity of the State”, “belonging to a terrorist organization” and “insulting the President”.

The Istanbul Bar Association responded to this referral and asked Eren Keskin for written observations. Ms Keskin shared her observations highlighting the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and recalled the basic principles relating to the role of the Bar Association adopted by the United Nations in Havana on 7 September 1990.

The OIAD calls on the Turkish authorities to cease immediately the judicial harassment conducted against Eren Keskin and to ensure that she is able to exercise her right to freedom pf speech and to carry out her work as an attorney and a human rights defender.

It also calls for them to respect the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the United Nations in Havana in 1990, and in particular Principles 16, 18 and 23, which provide that:

  • Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) 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.” Principle 16.
  • Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.” Principle 18.
  • Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.” Principle 23.