European Court of Human Rights turns
attention to freedom of speech in Turkey
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye - ekurd.net
The rising number of cases in the European Court of
Human Rights turns attention to freedom of speech,
the Kurdish issue and Turkey's Anti-Terror Law.
December 6, 2011
STRASBURG, With nearly 18,500 cases,
mainly on human rights violations, freedom of
expression and prolonged judicial procedures, Turkey
recently became the country with the second most
applicants to the Strasbourg-based European Court of
Human Rights (ECHR), after Russia.
"The number of cases against Turkey increased by 34%
in one year," said Isil Karakas, a Turkish judge at
European Court of Human Rights
adding that Turkish courts must adhere more closely
to rulings coming from the ECHR if they want to
prevent the flow of cases to Europes top human
In its annual Progress Report, the European
Commission criticised the Turkish government for
"not finding a way to respond to the calls of the
ECHR to reduce the time of imprisonment and speed up
During his recent visit to Ankara, the
secretary-general of the Council of Europe,
Thorbjorn Jagland, said journalists in particular
were facing a "chilling" situation.
"A number of journalists have been arrested within
¬the scope of notorious broad-sweeping
anti-terrorism laws. Many are detained for
excessively long periods before being brought to
trial," he reminded.
Authorities in Ankara, however, are not impressed.
"These kinds of topics are addressed during our
negotiations with the EU and they see that we are
approaching them," Ayhan Sefer Ustun, chairman of
the Turkish Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation
In the meantime, he said, Turkey would offer
settlements to prevent cases from being taken to the
ECHR. "The government is now working on reforms and
taking additional steps with European allies."
For the political opposition, the continuing arrests
of journalists and academics charged with being
members of banned groups, not only punishes the AKP
government's rivals, but also damages the countrys
image in Europe.
"This is not helping Turkey in its accession process
with the EU and must be stopped immediately," said
Ayse Gulsun Bilgehan, CHP MP and member of the
Turkish delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe (PACE).
One of the major concerns coming from Europe is
Turkey's Anti-Terror Law,www.ekurd.net
which broadly defines support for terrorism, and
often clashes with the principle of freedom of
speech and peaceful political protest.
Cenap Cakmak, head of the international relations
department at the Eskisehir Osmangazi University,
said the disagreement between Turkey and Europe
partially stems from the inherent difficulty in
offering a generally acceptable definition of
"Given this background, despite bold initiatives and
reforms in the field of human rights and
democratization, Turkey cannot be expected to
introduce drastic changes to the existing
legislation on anti-terrorism unless the PKK and its
political splinter organizations make it clear that
they will relinquish violence methods," he said.
According to Hamid Akin Unver, Ertegun Lecturer of
Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies at Princeton
University, as far as Kurdish rights and cultural
expression go, the AKP will likely not run into
problems with the ECHR.
"They understand the dynamics of why Turkey is
subject to the highest number of cases there," he
said, arguing that, "after all, President Gul's wife
had brought the case of the headscarf and sued
Turkey in the ECHR before AKP came to power".
"However, the recent KCK operations will run into
problems with the ECHR; most recent of which is the
arrest of notable academics who taught courses in
one of these KCK political science workshops," he
However, Sarah Fischer, Turkey analyst at American
University, argues it is possible for judicial
ideals in Turkey and the Europe to align.
"Frequently, Turkey's EU-accession process is
labelled 'cyclical' and is seen as having been in a
'down' cycle for several years," she said, adding
that if discussions over freedom of expression in
Turkey and the EU gain traction, it might mark the
beginning of an "up" cycle.
"The PKK's supporters are a diverse group. Should
serious efforts be made to undertake judicial reform
and expand democratic rights in Turkey, it is likely
that some factions of the PKK's supporters would
re-focus their efforts towards working within such a
system," Fischer said, reminding that the right to
express one's self has been a key concern of many
Kurds for decades.
Published by eKurd.net in cooperation with Southeast
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