ECtHR faults Turkey for violating right to fair trial over denial of civil service jobs based on background checks

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the fair trial rights of seven individuals who were denied civil service jobs based on undisclosed negative background checks, which prevented the applicants from contesting the allegations against them.

The ECtHR issued its ruling in the case titled “Kurkut and others v. Türkiye” on Tuesday. The court had decided to merge the applications filed by seven people into a single case due to similarities in the content of the applications.

The Strasbourg-based court said the Turkish courts had failed to communicate the information about the background checks to the applicants and did not seek their comments on the allegations against them. The court concluded that there were “inadequate safeguards” to compensate for the non-disclosure of evidence, resulting in an insufficient review of the administrative decisions.

The court awarded each applicant €2,000 in non-pecuniary damages and additional amounts for costs and expenses, emphasizing the need for transparency and fairness in judicial proceedings.

One of the applicants, Bahar Dolgun Kılıç, had been working temporarily at Manisa Celal Bayar University and applied for a permanent position in 2018. Despite passing the necessary examinations, her appointment was blocked due to a negative background check, with no explanation provided.

When Kılıç contested the decision, the Turkish court referenced alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames for a failed coup in 2016. Gülen and the movement deny any involvement.

However, Kılıç was not allowed to see or challenge these allegations. Turkish courts ultimately upheld the university’s decision without conducting a thorough review.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces, were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

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