ECtHR fines Turkish government over ‘discrimination of right to education’

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered Turkey on Tuesday to pay 10,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage to a paraplegic university student following his application over the violation of the right to education in the eastern province of Elazığ.

According to a report by Hürriyet daily news, ECtHR’s ruling came after Enver Şahin applied to the court on the basis that he could not enjoy his right to education on equal footing with other students due to a lack of suitable facilities in the technical faculty of Elazığ’s Fırat University. The faculty had refused to adapt its premises in consideration of Şahin’s disability following a long-running legal saga.

In its ruling, the ECtHR said it had found the Turkish government had not demonstrated that the university and judicial authorities had reacted with the requisite diligence in order to ensure Şahin had equal access to education as with other students.

Since there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), read in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education), Turkey was to pay the applicant 10,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and an additional 2,952 euros in respect of costs and expenses, the ECtHR ruled.

While he was a first-year mechanics student in the technical faculty of Fırat University in 2005, Şahin was seriously injured in an accident that left his lower limbs paralyzed. He had suspended his studies until he had recovered sufficiently to return to university.

In 2007, Şahin requested the faculty to adapt the university premises so he could resume his studies. Citing budgetary reasons and time constraints, the rector’s office replied that the adjustments he sought were not possible in the short term, but offered to appoint someone to assist the applicant on the premises. Şahin refused, arguing, among other things, that it would interfere with his privacy. He appealed without success to the administrative courts, which led him to apply to the ECtHR in 2012.

“The assistance of an accompanying person could not be regarded as reasonable for the purposes of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), since it disregarded the applicant’s need to live as independent and autonomous a life as possible,” said the ECtHR in its ruling on Jan. 30.

The local courts in Turkey “had also omitted to look for possible solutions that would have enabled the applicant to resume his studies under conditions as close as possible to those provided to students with no disability, without imposing an undue or disproportionate burden on the administration,” the ECtHR further said in its ruling. The ECHR’s decision stands as a precedent for similar appeals from Turkey.

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