Top English lawyers are really worried about Turkey’s sacking of 2,745 judges after failed coup

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By Alex Aldridge on

Bar Council and Law Society prepare for action


The bigwigs at the helm of England and Wales’ twin legal professional bodies have sent strongly worded messages of support to their Turkish brethren — after nearly 3,000 judges and prosecutors were dismissed in the wake of this weekend’s failed coup attempt.

Responding to the news, Bar Council chair Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC spoke of her “grave concern” not just at the sackings but at “reports of a substantial number of arrests of the Turkish judiciary”.

Revealing that she had conducted a rapid response meeting with bar chiefs from around the UK and Ireland in response to events in Turkey, she expressed fears for “possible implications of these developments for the rule of law” in the country.

Continuing, she added:

We are reviewing the situation carefully and have reached out to other European Bar leaders to establish more information before determining our next response.

Meanwhile, over at the Law Society president Robert Bourns was scrambling together a solicitor response. Bourns subsequently issued this statement:

The prosperity of a country is intrinsically linked to the rule of law and to a strong, independent judiciary and legal profession. The rule of law enables business and is fundamental to the cohesion of a powerful and diverse society. Stable legal institutions, an independent judiciary and a government accountable to the people are fundamental elements of a nation which is deeply rooted in the rule of law.

Bourns went on:

Given the importance of judicial independence, no member of any judiciary should be dismissed or suspended except for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties, in accordance with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary.

This is not the first time that the Turkish government has struck at the core of fundamental civil and democratic values. In March, nine human rights lawyers, known for their work in representing minority groups and people accused of terrorism and crimes against the state, were arrested in police raids on their homes.

As Doerries puts it:

The judiciary and legal profession in any jurisdiction should not and cannot fulfil their duties under the threat of arrest.

First they came for the lawyers