Turkey’s top court: Emergency rule compatible with ECtHR and CoE decisions

The main building of Turkey's Constitutional Court.

In the reasoned opinion for a verdict that rejected the individual petitions of individuals accused of participation in a failed coup, the Turkish Constitutional Court argued that the ongoing emergency rule in the country is compatible with the constitution and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Council of Europe (CoE).

Publishing its decision in Turkey’s Official Gazette on Friday, the top court unanimously denied the petitions of four imprisoned coup suspects (the case of Aydın Yavuz et al), stating that the 11-month-long detention of the applicants was reasonable.

Turkey’s top court has also denied the petition for release of two fired educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on a hunger strike for 112 days to protest their dismissal under state of emergency decree-laws. The court argued that being in prison did not pose a threat to the lives and physical or moral integrity of Gülmen and Özakça.

Tens of thousands of people have been held in pre-trial detention in Turkey since a coup attempt last July. Two judges of the country’s Constitutional Court were arrested on coup charges shortly after the putsch.

Turkey has been criticized by European institutions and international human rights organizations for extended pre-trial detentions that could last for years. A comprehensive report by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints on rights violations.

It lists many recent cases showing the ways in which Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his associates in the government manipulates judiciary through loyalists and partisans. An unprecedented intimidation campaign against independent judges and prosecutors including unlawful arrests and arbitrary assets seizures was pursued by political authorities.

The report has showed Turkey is in breach of the compliance with its international obligations under existing treaties, highlighting recent cases how stick and carrot approach paralyzed independent judiciary.

In addition to jailing thousands of judges and prosecutors, Turkey has also imprisoned hundreds of human rights defenders and lawyers, making extremely difficult for detainees to access to a lawyer in violation of a due process and fair trial protections under the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedures.

The report has stated that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) remains the last beacon of hope for millions of Turks who feel their fundamental rights were violated. SCF had urged the Strasbourg court to take up cases on an emergency procedures and pilot judgement framework to issue landmark rulings to set the bar on protecting human rights in Turkey.

SCF had stated “As the rule of law is no longer applicable in Turkey, the requirement of the court for the complainants to exhaust domestic remedies before filing a case with the ECtHR has become an additional burden on victims. Turkey is going through an extraordinary period, must be declared as a special case and be dealt with an urgent manner.”

Turkey survived a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Ministry on June 13. (SCF with turkishminute.com) July 1, 2017

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