ABA Annual Meeting

ABA condemns mass detentions and arrests of Turkish legal community

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Kevin Curtin

Kevin J. Curtin moved for the resolution. Photo by Tony Avelar.

In the wake of a failed coup attempt by the Turkish military, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrested about 3,000 lawyers, judges and journalists in the country without charges or access to counsel. On Tuesday morning, the ABA’s House of Delegates condemned any state’s detention of people without charge or counsel and called for the Turkish government to provide fair hearings, release people detained without evidence of a crime and meet its human rights obligations.

Resolution 10B was moved by the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Kevin J. Curtin, speaking with privileges of the floor.

“The people of the world are watching us,” said Curtin, senior appellate counsel at the Middlesex County, Massachusetts District Attorney’s Office. “What does this association do? This is what the ABA does. We stand up for justice.”

The Criminal Justice Section’s Stephen Saltzburg, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law, conceded that the ABA can’t do everything—“but the policy cannot be that because we cannot do everything, we will do nothing.”

Saltzburg speaking at podium
Stephen Saltzburg of the George Washington University School of Law spoke in favor of the resolution. Photo by Tony Avelar.

“The message that we send may not be heard by the [Turkish] leadership, but there are lawyers and judges that are detained in dark cells,” he said. “When the light of justice shines, it reaches those cells, it reaches those people.”

The measure passed without any speakers in opposition. The measure added the House’s condemnation to a statement made in July by outgoing ABA President Paulette Brown condemning the arrests.

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