Outrage boils over as ECHR president meets with Turkish President Erdoğan: report

President Róbert Ragnar Spanó met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential palace on Thursday, drawing backlash from critics, Turkish Minute reported.

Spanó is the first ECHR president to pay an official visit to Turkey, the government of which is a party to more than 16 percent of the cases before the Strasbourg court.

The closed-door meeting lasted 45 minutes.

The announcement of the visit by Spanó to President Erdoğan sparked anger among dissidents, who chastised the ECHR president for legitimizing Erdoğan’s unchecked rule.

Twitter was abuzz with angry reactions to the news.

“Turkish Government will always be thankful to  @ECHR_CEDH #Spano for his ‘kiss of life’ comes just after Erdoğan’s call for stricter laws on Turkish lawyers,” tweeted Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist in exile who survived an assassination attempt before fleeing the country.

“Every picture tells a story. This one, featuring Robert Spano, the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) with # Turkey’s President, explains why the rights court has failed Turks who sought justice at ECHR after #Erdogan dismantled the rule of law, jailed judges,” Abdullah Bozkurt, president of the Stockholm Center for Freedom, said on Twitter.

Earlier in the day, the ECHR president met with Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül and gave a lecture to prospective Turkish judges and prosecutors at the country’s Justice Academy.

The lecture sparked criticism as Spanó suggested that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would be better implemented with the training of judges at the national level.

Spanó also met with Zühtü Arslan, the chair of the country’s top court, who was harshly criticized by the opposition back in 2017 over a photo with Erdoğan, where he seemed to bow his head in deference as he greeted the president.

The ECHR has been under increasing criticism for not deliberating cases from Turkey that were submitted after the July 2016 coup attempt. Under the ECHR’s regulations, domestic judicial remedies must first be exhausted before individuals can have recourse to the ECHR. To avoid possible convictions from the court, the Turkish government established a commission in January 2017 to evaluate the cases of those who were summarily fired from their public jobs during a state emergency that was in effect for two years after the coup attempt.

The commission was accepted as an effective remedy, and applicants cannot apply to the ECHR before the commission rules on their cases. There are still cases pending before the commission more than three-and-a-half years after its establishment. Moreover, after the commission’s decision the applicants first need to go through Turkey’s administrative court system and ultimately the Constitutional Court before their cases are eligible to be heard by the ECHR.

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