Aug 17 2019

Turkey's provincial bar associations wage unexpected war on Ankara

This story has been updated several times according to increasing number of provincial bar associations that are boycotting the ceremony.

The Turkish Bar Association, said on Saturday that its president Metin Feyzioğlu would attend a ceremony marking the beginning of the judicial year at the Turkish Presidency’s Congress and Culture Centre in Ankara despite provincial bar associations’ calls for a boycott, Artı Gerçek news site reported.

According to Birgun newspaper, so far 41 provincial bar associations, including those in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, announced that they had declined the invitation to attend the event over ethical concerns. Only three associations have accepted participating the ceremony, according to the same newspaper.

In a statement on Friday, the Istanbul Bar Association said it could not accept a choice of venue that conflicted both with the constitution’s 104th article, which deal with the president’s duties in relation to the judiciary, but also with ethical standards outlined in a legal reform package unveiled in May.

The Ankara Bar Association on Saturday said in a written statement that attending an event for the new judicial year at the presidential venue would mean reproducing the political pressure over the judiciary. 

The association said the existing circumstances in Turkey had been surpassing both the rule of law and the separation of powers.

Turkish Bar Association, the umbrella organisation of provincial bodies, said in a written statement that Feyzioğlu would attend the event and deliver a speech. 

“What our colleagues and nation expect is solve our problems through dialogue. We fully believe that we can solve those problems together by discussing and through dialogue,” it said. 

The European Commission said in its annual report on Turkey published in May that the country had been experiencing considerable backsliding in the rule of law and the judiciary. The EU’s executive body said there were serious concerns on the independence of the judiciary, noting that some 30 percent of the judges and prosecutors were either dismissed or removed following a coup attempt in 2016. 

Turkey’s new executive presidential system, which entered into force after presidential and parliamentary elections last year, has placed vast powers in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, among them the right to appoint members of the powerful Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK). The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said last month that constitutional changes regarding the HSK clearly contradicted with Council of Europe standards.

The list of provincial bar associations that have so far rejected the invitation extended by President Erdogan's Palace, according to Birgun newspaper are as follows:

Adana
Adıyaman
Aksaray
Amasya
Ankara
Antalya
Artvin
Aydın
Balıkesir
Bilecik
Bingöl
Bitlis
Bolu
Bursa
Çanakkale
Denizli
Düzce
Eskişehir
Gaziantep
Hatay
Iğdır
Isparta
İstanbul
İzmir
Kırklareli
Kocaeli
Kütahya
Malatya
Manisa
Mersin
Muş
Muğla
Ordu
Sinop
Şanlıurfa
Tekirdağ
Tunceli
Trabzon
Van
Yalova
Zonguldak