ECHR rules against Turkey in cases of Kurdish lawyer, prostituted minor, army officer

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued rulings against Turkey in three cases involving a prostituted minor, a former army officer and a human rights lawyer.

In the case of 14-year-old prostituted girl N.Ç., the court found that the minor’s rights to privacy had been violated during legal proceeedings that began in 2003 and that she had been subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment, according to a statement on Tuesday.

Court proceedings in Turkey concerning N.Ç. “amounted to a serious case of secondary victimisation”, the ECHR said. “The national authorities’ conduct had been inconsistent with the obligation to protect a child who had been the victim of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

N.Ç. was subjected to repeated medical examinations, made to recount incidents of rape unnecessarily, and was questioned about consent despite her age. Hearings did not provide her with a secure and calm environment, and the procedure was not concluded in a timely manner, the court said.

Cases against Turkey at Europe’s top human rights courts constitute 20 percent of total, the largest proportion among the 47 members of the Council of Europe. Turkey’s European Union accession process has been effectively frozen for some three years, partly due to widespread human rights abuses in the country.

Former Vice Admiral Kadir Sağdıç, accused by Turkish prosecutors of plotting to overthrow the government, suffered damage to his reputation that “attained the threshold of gravity required to bring it within the scope of Article 8”, ECHR said, referring to his right to privacy.

Domestic courts had not sought a proper balance between Sağdıç’s right to privacy and freedom of the press, the court found. The content of several articles published in daily Taraf and Yeni Şafak newspapers in 2009 were “incompatible with the standards of responsible journalism”, it said.

The media reports in question accused Sağdıç of involvement in a plot codenamed “Cage”, which formed part of the Ergenekon Trials in which prominent members of Turkey’s military, lawmakers and journalists were accused of plotting a military coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time.

Human rights lawyer Ramazan Demir’s freedom to receive information and ideas was violated while in pre-trial detention in 2016 on terrorism charges, when he was refused access to the websites of the ECHR and Turkey’s constitutional court and official gazette to use as resources for his and his clients’ defence, the ECHR found. Demir represents several Kurdish politicians, including a former leader and lawmakers of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“Neither the authorities nor the government had explained why the contested measure had been necessary in the present case,” the ECHR said, referring to the prison’s decision to restrict Internet access due to a perceived danger posed by Demir. “It followed that the interference in question had not been necessary in a democratic society,” the court said.

By November 2019, the ECHR had fined Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments over $50 million for violations of the convention, according to a report by daily BirGün.

The ECHR found Turkey to have committed 3,309 human rights violations since the foundation of the court in 1959. The most common violations were of freedom of expression (31), right to a fair trial (21), and the right to liberty and security (16).

Turkey has committed 953 violations of the right to a fair trial since 1959, 787 violations of the right to liberty and security, and 688 violations of the right to protection of property, the newspaper said.

On average, 1.09 out of every 10,000 people in Turkey have been subject to an ECHR decision - more than double the average across 47 members of the Council of Europe.

There are 11,750 pending applications at the ECHR from Turkey, amounting to some 20 percent of the court’s total caseload.