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EP’s Harms: ECtHR relies unduly on domestic legal remedies in Turkey

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Rebecca Harms, a member of the European Parliament and co-president of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, has said she has serious doubts about the attitude of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) since the court relies unduly on domestic legal remedies in Turkey in cases opened against thousands of people under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Giving an interview to Eşref Aydoğmuş from online news outlet Ahval on Thursday, Harms stated that “I have serious doubts about the attitude of the ECtHR. They should stop transfering cases coming from Turkey to the Turkish judiciary. The court unduly relies on domestic remedies in Turkey.”

Stating that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been putting people who criticize him in prison to get rid of them and intimidate his rivals for the sake of his own political interests, Harms said: “Look at the cases of Selahattin Demirtaş and other democratically elected Peoples’ Democratic Party [HDP] deputies; look at the cases of journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ayşenur Parıldak and Şahin Alpay; and look at the cases of the Cumhuriyet daily, Deniz Yücel, human rights advocate Taner Kılıç and Osman Kavala…  There are so many cases in the Turkish judiciary that there is no fair judicial process or just verdicts for political victims…”

“Most of the cases that reached the ECtHR have already been put on the table in Strasbourg,” Harms said, adding that “Especially the cases of journalists and writers whose lawyers have been demanding help from Strasbourg for a long time… This situation shows that the ECtHR is relying unduly on domestic remedies in Turkey.”

A comprehensive report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in the Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints on rights violations.

In addition to jailing thousands of judges and prosecutors, Turkey has also imprisoned hundreds of human rights defenders and lawyers, making it extremely difficult for detainees to access a lawyer in violation of due process and fair trial protections under the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedure.

Turkey survived a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on Dec. 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. On Dec. 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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