EventsHuman Rights

MLSA briefed the Committee of Ministers on non-implementation of the ECtHR judgments

Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) Trial Monitoring Coordinator Mümtaz Murat Kök briefed the Committee of Ministers at the briefing organized by the European Implementation Network (EIN) on February 27th. At the briefing held in Strasbourg, the permanent representatives of the Council of Europe were briefed about the status of implementation in Oya Ataman and Freedom of Expression groups of cases.

It was shared with the delegates that the violations which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had found in these groups of cases persist as the Court’s judgments have not been implemented.

The representatives of NGOs working in Bulgaria and Hungary also briefed the delegates about the cases pertaining to their countries.

‘Laws 2911 and 5442 continue to be sources for further violations’

The first group of cases on the agenda of the event to which MLSA attended upon the invitation and with the support of EIN, was the Oya Ataman Group.

Beril Önder, Project Lawyer at the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project which made a Rule 9.2. Submission with 25 NGOs and 7 Bar Associations for the Oya Ataman Group, took the floor first and emphasized that the Court’s judgment in the group has been pending implementation for the past 16 years.

Önder drew attention to the fact that Turkish authorities continue to present past amendments made to several articles of Law no. 2911 on Demonstrations and Assemblies and Law no. 5442 on Provincial Administration despite the fact that the Committee has already examined these amendments and found them inadequate for solving the problems.

Önder shared with the delegates that thanks to the opportunities afforded by the laws, the authorities continue to impose specific and blanket bans on peaceful assemblies and demonstrations which are about certain topics or which are organized by certain groups. Önder also highlighted that the figures provided by the authorities in their latest communication do not match those which are published by the Ministry of Justice and presented the data of the Association for Monitoring Equal Rights.

Taking the floor after Önder, Kök started his presentation by sharing with the delegates the data gathered through the monitoring of 39 freedom of assembly trials. Arguing that there is a pattern of banning and intervening with the events of certain groups, Kök shared some concrete details with the delegates.

Kök pointed out that pride week events in Eskişehir and Istanbul were targeted by local authorities with discriminatory practices but the events of certain groups which targeted LGBTI+ with hate were allowed to go on. It was shared with the delegates that local authorities defended their ban decisions before the courts by resorting to conspiracy theories.

Kök also drew attention to the ongoing legal harassment and recurring police violence targeting Saturday Mothers/People. Giving the example of the violent dispersal of the Saturday Mother/People’s press statement before the Caglayan Courthouse, Kök shared with the delegates that they were not even given the opportunity to disperse. In contrast to this example, Kök noted, a radical Islamist group which gathered before the same courthouse were allowed to carry on with their protest despite the fact that they shouted hateful slogans. Agreeing with Önder, Kök concluded that this arbitrariness is made possible by the laws.

The presentation regarding the Oya Ataman Group was concluded with the joint recommendations of the NGOs.

‘The Chair of the Committee should send a letter to the Minister of Justice’

After the presentations of the representatives of Bulgarian and Hungarian NGOs, Kök took the floor once again to present in the Öner and Türk, Nedim Şener, Altuğ Taner Akçam, Artun and Güvener and Işıkırık Groups of Cases which are also known as the Freedom of Expression Group.

Credit: EIN

Kök stated that the authorities continue to present old amendments made to relevant articles of the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law and claim “progress.” Noting that the claim of “progress” has no basis, Kök informed the delegates that the violations which the Court had found in these groups of cases increasingly continue.

Kök pointed out that contrary to the claims of the authorities that all issues regarding Articles 299 and 301 of the Turkish Penal Code have been solved, these articles continue to be sources of further violations. In relation to Article 301, Kök gave the example of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and noted that the Association has been the target of repeating lawsuits on Article 301. Giving the example of journalist Sedef Kabaş who was arrested for citing a proverb, Kök pointed out that Article 299 which stipulates prison sentences for “insulting the president” increasingly gives way to Article 5 violations.

Recalling the imprisonment of Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Kök shared with the delegates that Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (“making propaganda for a terrorist organization”) is used more and more to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of the press and that only last year, 10 journalists were sentenced on this article.

Credit: EIN

During his presentation in the Nedim Şener Group, which concerns pre-trial detention of journalists on serious charges, Kök urged the delegates not to be misled by the conflicting arguments of the authorities as well as by the fact that there are currently less journalists in prison. Kök emphasized that 26 journalists have been arrested over the past nine months because of their work and that 16 journalists arrested in Diyarbakır on 16 June 2022 are yet to be indicted.

Repeating the recommendations and demands communicated in the submission, Kök specifically emphasized MLSA’s request for the Chair of the Committee to send a letter to the Minister of Justice of Turkey regarding the non-implementation of these groups of cases.

The Committee of Ministers will examine the implementation of the Court’s judgments in these groups of cases in the 1459th Committee of Ministers Human Rights Meeting on 7th – 9th March 2023.