The Turkish parliament approved a controversial new law Saturday that would affect the structure of bar associations. However, the new law is already facing criticism by lawyers, and thousands have protested in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities.
The bar associations are a necessary system in the Turkish legal profession. All lawyers in Turkey are obligated to register with a single bar association within their province. Turkey’s Constitution identifies bar associations as public bodies that are responsible to defend the interests of the legal profession and protect human rights.
The new law will permit multiple bar associations to be created in a single province—a large change from the original law of one bar association per province. Cahit Ozkan, a lawmaker, has said that the law was needed because of the significant increase in the number of lawyers.
Some view the change as divisive. Human Rights Watch and the National Commission of Jurists have said that the legislation, “appears calculated to divide the legal profession along political lines.” There is a fear that the bar associations in larger cities will decrease—the same bar associations that have a history of criticizing the government for human rights violations.