The judicial system is probably the domain of the State thatsince Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in Turkey; until you have managed to convert one of in a greased machinery that, most of the time, acts in line with what the Government intends. However, Turkish lawyers have continued to be annoyed by their constant complaints of abuses and violations of rights, something that the Government now intends to solve through a new law to reform the bar associations whose objective is to dilute the weight of the most critics. The law was approved last weekend with the votes in favor of .
“It is an attempt to discipline us, to reduce our influence, to destroy us,” laments lawyer Kemal Aytaç. The reform has prompted fierce protests from bar associations across the country and the opposition has filed an appeal for its annulment before the Constitutional Court.
The Magna Carta of Turkey grants bar associations the status of public body, although independent from the rest of the judicial system. They are organized by province and every lawyer is obliged to join one, since they are the ones who issue the licenses to practice. The new law, alleging the need for a more “plural and democratic” representation, will now allow that, in those provinces with more than 5,000 lawyers, new colleges can be created. Something that, according to criticism of the NGO Human Rights Watch, will open the way for schools to be formed “aligned with the ideology of each political party.”
Furthermore, the new law has modified the election system of the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), which is the one that collects the funds and distributes them among the provincial schools. Before, for the election of the TBB leadership, each provincial college sent three delegates plus one for every 300 affiliates, and now it will send four per college plus one for every 5,000 members. In this way, the schools of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, which comprise almost 60% of the 130,000 lawyers in Turkey, will only have 27 of the 400 votes, while previously they had a little more than half.
“By chance it turns out that the schools in the most populated provinces, the ones most affected by the new law, are also the most critical of the Government,” Aytaç says ironically. Erdogan has charged several times against the legal profession calling for its reform, for example when the highest schools boycotted a ceremony in the presidential palace as a complaint, or when, recently, the Ankara College criticized the homophobic statements of the president of the Directorate of Religious Affairs.
The law has been made by rapid procedure and without consulting lawyers (the Government maintains that they were invited to participate, but they refused). Just before the summer close of Parliament and with enough time for the new system to be operational for October, when elections are held in the provincial schools, and, above all, December, when the new leadership of the Union of Schools must be elected. of Lawyers. Its current president is Metin Feyzioglu, linked to the opposition CHP party and once very critical of the government. In fact, he came to sound like a candidate for president and rival of Erdogan, but in recent years he has approached the positions of the Executive until he has earned the enmity of a good part of his profession.
At the last hour of the law’s processing, the Islamist deputies introduced an amendment that will allow the state’s lawyers – the only ones who do not have the obligation to be collegiate – participate in the elections to the directors of the schools. “No matter what they do and how they try to divide us, we are not going to choose Feyzioglu or any other lawyer close to the Government,” Aytaç says: “Because, for the first time in the history of Turkey, the bar associations across the country we agree on one thing, to reject this law ”.