Rally for the Day of the Endangered Lawyer in Istanbul

On the occasion of the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, Istanbul lawyers' associations have drawn attention to the situation of their colleagues in Pakistan and called for protective measure.

Lawyers' associations in several cities in Turkey made statements on the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer on 24th January. In the Levent district of Istanbul, members of the Association of Progressive Lawyers (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği, ÇHD), the Lawyers for Democracy (Demokrasi için Hukukçular, DİH) and the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (Özgürlük için Hukukçular Derneği, ÖHD) gathered in front of the Consulate General of Pakistan for a rally. This year's worldwide day of action is dedicated to lawyers in Pakistan.  

The participants of the rally displayed photos of the president of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, Tahir Elçi, who was murdered in November 2015, and of colleagues imprisoned in Turkey. On a banner, attention was drawn to the fact that 86 lawyers have been murdered in Pakistan since 2014.

Oğuzhan Topalkara of the ÇHD read out a joint declaration of international lawyers' associations on the situation in Pakistan and recalled that 24 January had been dedicated to lawyers in Turkey last year. The rally ended with a call for protective measures for lawyers in Pakistan.

International Day of the Endangered Lawyer

The day of the endangered lawyer dates back to 24 January 1977, when four trade union lawyers and a coworker were murdered in their office in Madrid, Spain for carrying out their legal duties. While one of the murderers, who was in contact with far-right parties and organisations, was caught and given a 15-year prison sentence, the other two perpetrators were able to flee abroad. One of the perpetrators escaped to Brazil, while the third perpetrator was later arrested in Bolivia for drug smuggling.

The Day of the Endangered Lawyer was first celebrated in 2009 and is held for the tenth time in 2020. In recent years, the Endangered Lawyer's Day has focused on China, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Philippines, Spain/Basque country and Turkey.

The Day aims to raise awareness of the fact that lawyers are harassed, pressured, threatened, persecuted, tortured, silenced and murdered in the course of their work. A discussion on possible protective measures is intended to be initiated.

The situation in Pakistan

In recent decades, lawyers in Pakistan have been subjected to mass acts of terrorism, murder, attempted murder, attacks, (death) threats, contempt, harassment and intimidation in the course of their professional duties. They have been imprisoned or tortured. In some cases, the assaults also extended to the family members of lawyers who were murdered and who were also victims of violent assaults. In some cases, lawyers are threatened with disbarment or attacked by investigating officers. Christian lawyers or members of Muslim minority groups have been attacked or threatened with death.

The most notorious attack on lawyers in Pakistan occurred on August 8, 2016, when terrorists attacked the Quetta government hospital with a suicide bombing and gunfire that killed 56 lawyers. Each year an alarming number of lawyers continue to be killed during and because of their work.

The perpetrators of these attacks were not only terrorists and religious fanatics, but also members of the police force. There are reports that some murders of lawyers are attributed to pro-government militias.