The Law Society is deeply shocked and saddened by news of the murder of Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elci on 28 November 2015.
Tahir was a prominent human rights lawyer practising in Diyarbakir in south-east Turkey and was the president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.
The Law Society had expressed concern only last month for Tahir who had been receiving multiple death threats due to his work as a defender of human rights.
Throughout his career he was subject to serious personal risk. Only last month he was interviewed on behalf of Channel 4 News in the UK and confirmed that he had received ‘hundreds’ of threats on social media and personally. But his determination to stand up for the rule of law and for the protection of fundamental freedoms has made him unflinching in the pursuit of remedies for his clients.
The ability of lawyers to perform their professional duties without fear is not only a basic human right for the lawyers themselves, but is crucial to upholding the rule of law in democratic countries.
Human rights committee member and colleague of Tahir, Tony Fisher, said:
‘There are not many like Tahir Elci. His humanity, humour, independence and singleness of purpose were infectious. He was a great influencer and a fighter to the end. His energy and enthusiasm, his dedication and his love for his work and for his family were an inspiration. He will be so sadly missed, not only amongst his community of lawyers friends and supporters in Turkey, but by the wider international community of human rights practitioners in Europe. For me, I have lost a true friend and colleague who I will mourn forever.’
The Law Society is holding an event on 10 December to mark International Human Rights Day. The seminar will focus on the increasing number of lawyers and human rights defenders around the globe who are facing politically motivated prosecutions, unfair trials, wrongful convictions and arbitrary detention for peacefully exercising freedom of expression in the course of carrying out their professional responsibilities.
This seminar will highlight and raise awareness to this worrying trend as well as recognise the great work of lawyers in this field, and pay tribute to Tahir’s determined work to protect the rights of others and promote respect for the rule of law.