ezgi karataş
Dec 22 2017

ECHR allowing decades-long Turkish rights abuse decisions delay - academic

The European Court of Human Rights “chose to be complacent in the formation of an Inquiry commission that will delay rulings on human rights abuses for decades,” human rights professor Kerem Altıparmak told Ahval in an interview, adding that he worried that the state of emergency inquiry commission would actively seek to prevent activists from learning the outcomes of its judgments.

The lawsuits against the “academics for peace”, who signed a declaration to protest ongoing military operations and human right violations in southeastern Turkey are being tried at Turkish courts right now. What are your observations about these lawsuits? What kind of results do you expect?

I have a general observation about political court cases in Turkey. In these cases, judges are not independent. In our report, we wrote in detail that the text of the declaration could not be subject to administrative investigation let alone a legal prosecution. For that reason, legally speaking, there is no doubt that this case is a political trial. As to what I expect to happen; what can I expect from a trial for a non-criminal act? I hope the judges will agree.

After the July 15 coup attempt, a massive purge of public officials took place. More than 100,000 civil servants were fired. Many people applied to civilian courts but were referred to the State of Emergency (OHAL) Inquiry Commission. The commission, under a tremendous workload, missed its deadline in November. What do you think about the commission and its execution?

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ made a statement last week saying that the inquiry commission's decisions will not be published, but will be mailed to each applicant. Even worse, we don't know what format the decisions will be in. Without this, for instance, with just a yes or no decision mailed to the applicants, judicial control of the process will become impossible afterward. I am worried that this might be the case.

Last month at a human rights seminar you said that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regularly negotiates with the judiciary in Turkey before making decisions. Can you explain what you meant?

This is now a widely known fact. Since there were more applications from Turkey than the ECHR could possibly handle, the secretary general of the Council of Europe asked Turkey to create a domestic legal solution to address these complaints. The OHAL Inquiry Commission was established after those talks. Everyone knows that the ECHR cannot make decisions independent of the OHAL commission. The problem is how independent the ECHR is in this process and if the inquiry commission is in line with ECHR criteria. I personally believe that the ECHR should not be negotiating with the commission. The ECHR should decide on its own.

OHAL is continually being extended, and there is no sign that it will end anytime soon. How do you evaluate the Constitutional Court's lack of a jurisdiction decision regarding the OHAL decrees?

The Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over OHAL decrees. This decision means that there is no constitution in Turkey anymore. There is an OHAL that we don't know when will end, and there are emergency law decrees that we cannot discuss at the Constitutional Court. It is against rule of law.

Is this why the Constitutional Court rejected the individual "freedom of speech" applications of (pro-Kurdish party) HDP deputy Gülser Yıldırım and the (main opposition) CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu?

Both of those decisions were unanimous, and both apparently contradicted the ECHR rulings. Kılıçdaroğlu was convicted for a speech he made in the Turkish parliament. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court reached the decision that Kılıçdaroğlu insulted Erdoğan by choosing a few words in a long, fact-based speech. If Erdoğan used the same words to describe Kılıçdaroğlu, the Constitutional Court would undoubtedly cite freedom of expression. The same goes for the Gülser Yıldırım decision. It is apparently against ECHR rulings. Both decisions are very disappointing to me.

Recently there are many reports of torture and human rights violations in prisons. Would you like to comment?

We are getting quite a few complaints about these issues. Torture is hard to prove. I cannot positively say that there is torture in prisons; our experience shows that if there are complaints of torture, it probably is happening. The real issue is this; if there are allegations of torture, they must be investigated.

You are also known for your work at the Centre for Human Rights, which operates within the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University. The centre was closed last month. What is happening in a well-established institution like Ankara University? Why did the university decide to close the centre?

I am the chair of the Department of Human Rights. They did not ask for my opinion, or anyone else’s in my department before making this decision. Look, we were one of Turkey's most active human rights centres. Why did they feel the need to close the centre? Why did they feel the need to move the control of the centre to the rectorate? I don't know. Neither the rector nor any other officials responded to our questions.