ECHR should call for Spano’s resignation after Turkey visit - human rights defender Fincancı

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) President Robert Spano should resign for his one-sided visit to Turkey, which resembled a ''pro-government puppet-show,’'  said Şebnem Korur Fincancı, leading forensic medicine expert and chairwoman of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV).

Spano last week visited Turkey for the opening of the judicial year, meeting with the top officials of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Both Spano’s visit and itinerary last week sparked strong condemnations from Turkey's human rights organisations, lawyers and activists as well as European politicians and defenders. The ECHR president has not made any statements or given interviews since the controversial four-day visit.

Spano only met with the government officials and governmental institutions while ignoring requests to hold meetings with officials from the country’s human rights organisations, Fincancı said during a podcast with Ahval's editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar.

Spano's visit to Turkey played a legitimising role for Turkish violations of human rights and basic freedoms, critics have told Ahval.

According to Financı, Spano's visit in fact, played a role of illegitimasing the Court and Spano's presidential position at the ECHR.

"The ECHR should discuss the situation and refuse this illegitimasing visit to protect the reputation of the court," she said.

There have been steady and growing calls for Spano to resign Fincanci said, but the ECHR president refuses to do so then the "court should discuss and call for his resignation."

There is now a partiality and independence problem regarding the ECHR due to chief judge Spano's "unfortunate visit," she said.

The ECHR president also visited the southeastern city of Mardin, where the elected mayor has been replaced by a government appointed official. Photos published over the social media showing Spano along with government appointed mayor visited an Imam-Hatip school in the city. 

A total of 51 of Turkey’s 63 HDP-won municipalities have been seized by the Turkish government over the last year, while a total 146 state-appointed officials have been assigned to HDP municipalities over the last four years. 

The government accuses of the HDP of acting in the interests of and sympathising with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war for Kurdish self rule for over three decades.

Spano met with Mardin's head of lawyer associations, but not their counterpart for Diyarbakir, one of the most prominent law associations in the country, Fincanci said.

"When you breach impartiality and independence, all judgements would have question marks,” Fincanci said, noting the lack of concern during the visit to “ethical regulations.” 

Fincanci dismissed the notion that Spano’s visit was “routine,” as expressed by former Turkish ECHR judge Rıza Turmen, saying the court’s "chief judge should pay attention to impartiality of the ECHR’’ and that he could have rejected such invitation.

The chairperson of the court visiting a government allegedly responsible for human right violations while not meeting with the human rights organisations in the country ” is “astonishing” Fincancı said.

Secretary General of the Council of the Europe and the current Commissioner is Dunja Mijatović, were also invited but politely declined, Baydar pointed out.

Fincanci said human rights groups invited Spano and wanted to meet with him, but their requests were ignored.

Finally, not letting students sit in the hall where he received the honorary doctorate from Istanbul University made the visit like “pro-government puppet show,” the human rights defender said.

Spano was evidently afraid the students would protest him, Fincancı said.