MLSA’s advocacy trip to Strasbourg

In a trip organized with Freedom House, Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) visited leading European institutions and NGOs in Strasbourg between March 22-26 to strengthen the rights advocacy capacity of the participants.

MLSA Co-Director Attorney Veysel Ok, Director of Europe and Eurasia Programs at Freedom House Marc Behrendt, The Şanlıurfa Bar Association President Attorney Mehmet Velat İzol, the Batman Bar Association President Attorney Erkan Şenses, the Bingöl Bar Association Vice President Attorney Nuran Aydın, member of the Women’s Rights and LGBTI+ Rights Commissions at the Diyarbakır Bar Association Attorney İrem Yıldız, a founding member of the Lawyers for Freedom Association’s (ÖHD) İzmir Branch Attorney Fatma Demirer attended the trip where they met with the representatives of different institutions for three days. Attorney Merve Kurhan from the MLSA Legal Team and the MLSA Projects and Communications Coordinator Mümtaz Murat Kök also accompanied the delegation.

The visits started on March 23rd with a working lunch attended by the Attorney of the Strasbourg Bar Association and lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Strasbourg Dr. Ümit Kılınç. The recent performance of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was discussed at the lunch, in which Attorney Kılınç also passed on his experience of practicing law in Strasbourg.

After the working lunch, the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights was visited. At the meeting, attended by the Head of Department Clare Ovey, the Head of the Turkey Department Işık Batmaz and the Legal Officer Coşku Gönen, the ECtHR’s judgments such as the judgments on Osman Kavala which Turkey has long refused to implement or had problems implementing were discussed. 

The second day of the visit on March 24th started with a visit to the Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe. At the Directorate, participants met with the Director General of the General Human Rights and Rule of Law Christos Giakoumopoulos and the Director of Communications and Spokesperson for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General Daniel Höltgen

During the meeting, participants had the opportunity to discuss the Council of Europe’s relationship with Turkey in the current reality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with Giakoumopoulos and Höltgen. Participants who also received information about the Council’s ongoing dialog with Turkey and its projects in Turkey have had the opportunity to share their concerns about the rule of law and judicial independence in Turkey.

The committee visited the Strasbourg Bar Association in the afternoon. Accompanied by Attorney Ümit Kılınç, participants met with the Bar co-presidents Bruno Huck and Tiffany Conein and the president of the European Attorneys’s Union’s Human Rights Commission Grégory Thuan Dit Dieudonne. At the meeting, where the increasing pressure on Attorneys in Turkey was shared with the representatives of the Strasbourg Bar Association, cooperation opportunities between the bar associations were also discussed.

The third day of the visit started with a training on effective advocacy for the implementation of the ECtHR decisions by the European Implementation Network (EIN). EIN Director George Stafford, Law and Advocacy Officer Ioana Iliescu and the Programme and Finance Manager Agnes Ciccarone shared extremely valuable advice and tips with the participants on effective Rule 9 submissions, which has a key place in the implementation of the ECtHR decisions. The training ended with a working lunch with EIN. At the lunch, how NGOs and attorneys operating in Turkey can contribute more to the ECtHR decisions during the execution phase was discussed.

The last visit of the trip was to the Registry at the ECtHR. The participants met with the Turkish representatives of the Registry and discussed the problems they experienced in the files they brought before the Court. Participants shared the recent situation they have been observing in Turkey and talked about how the local courts do not take into account the Constitutional Court or even the ECtHR rulings.