Turkey’s top court received over 200K petitions claiming rights violations in past 2 years

The Constitutional Court of Turkey

The Constitutional Court of Turkey received nearly 220,000 individual applications over the past two years from people who claim that they were subjected to rights violations in yet another sign of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, Turkish Minute reported.

The top court announced the quarterly updated statistics on its website on Thursday.

The court broke down the figures according to the number of applications made by year, which showed that it received 109,779 applications in 2022 and 108,816 in 2023, for total of 218,595.

The right to file an individual application with the Constitutional Court was introduced in 2012. The total number of applications received by the court had reached 579,754 as of the end of 2023.

In 2012 it received 1,342 individual applications, while it received a whopping 80,756 in 2016, a year marked by a military coup attempt. In 2017 the number of individual applications fell to 40,530 before increasing again to 66,121 in 2021 and 109,779 in 2022, when the court received the highest number of applications on record.

Among the all applications filed so far, 484.711 have been concluded by the court, accounting for 83.6 percent of all applications. The court found 395,309 of the applications concluded so far inadmissible, while it found at least the violation of one right granted by the Constitution in 72,560 of them. In 1,333 applications, the Constitutional Court found no rights violations.

Of the 72,560 violation rulings, 76.6 percent (56,443) were related to a violation of the applicant’s right to trial in a reasonable period of time; 5.8 percent (4,240) of the right to a fair trial; 5.8 percent (4,238) of the right to own property, 5.6 percent (4,131) of the right to freedom of expression; 1.9 percent (1,403) of the right to association; 1.7 percent (1,266) of the right to protection of individual and family life; and 0.8 percent (590) concerned violations of the right guaranteeing freedom from torture and ill-treatment, among other less-frequently seen violations.

Over the past 12 years, the court in 17 applications found violations of the right to be elected and engage in political activities. Two of these rulings concern Can Atalay, a jailed opposition lawmaker whose case has recently led to a judicial crisis in Turkey.

Atalay, who was elected to parliament in May while serving a 18-year sentence, remains in prison despite two rulings from the Constitutional Court in his favor.

A lower court who tried Atalay refused to release him in line with the Constitutional Court’s rulings and sent the case back to the Supreme Court of Appeals twice, which also defied the top court’s rulings.

The refusal of a local court and the Supreme Court of Appeals to abide by the Constitutional Court decisions has sparked widespread criticism and accusations of a judicial coup while opening the binding nature of the top court’s decisions to debate.

Article 153 of the Turkish Constitution, says the top court’s rulings are “final” and “shall be binding on the legislative, executive and judicial organs, on the administrative authorities, and on persons and corporate bodies.”

The appeals court judges even filed criminal complaints against members of the Constitutional Court due to their ruling in Atalay’s case, marking an unprecedented move within the Turkish legal system.

The Turkish judiciary faces widespread criticism for its perceived lack of independence. Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of exerting control over the judiciary and establishing one-man rule in the country, particularly after a coup attempt in 2016, following which he launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens and the country’s subsequent transition to a presidential system of governance, which granted him vast powers.

Many say there is no longer a separation of powers in the country and that members of the judiciary are under the control of the government and cannot make judgments based on the law.

In a development that validated the critics, Turkey was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in October, dropping one rank in comparison to last year.

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