Turkey tops list of CoE countries with most freedom of expression violations in 2020

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Turkey ranks first among the 47 Council of Europe (CoE) member states in the number of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerning violations of freedom of expression in 2020, according to an activity report announced by the court on Thursday.

ECtHR President Robert Spano presented the results of the court’s activities and statistics for the year 2020 at a news conference at the court building in Strasbourg on Thursday.

According to the report, the ECtHR announced rulings in a total of 871 applications in 2020. Following Russia, which received decisions in 185 applications, Turkey ranked second, with 97 rulings.

Among the 97 rulings, Turkey violated at least one article of the European Convention on Human Rights, with the most violated article being Article 10 of the convention, which concerns violation of the freedom of expression, which was violated 31 times. Russia was found to have violated Article 10 in 23 cases.

The latest ECtHR ruling on Turkey concerns the case of Atilla Taş, a famous singer and columnist who was jailed for 14 months in a post-coup crackdown in Turkey

The court, which announced its decision on Taş on Jan. 19, said the the pretrial detention of Taş “on account of tweets and articles written by him, was unlawful and arbitrary,” unanimously ruling that there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 5 § 1 on the right to liberty and security as well as a violation of Article 10.

Moreover, the court found no rights violations in six applications filed against Turkey with the court, while a friendly settlement was found in one case. The remaining five cases were resolved through other means.

As in previous years, the ECtHR received the highest number of applications from Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania and Italy in 2020, which make up 75 percent of all applications filed with the court last year. There are currently 62,000 cases pending at the court.

 Russia was the country with the highest number of applications, with 13,800 applications (22.4 percent of total applications) in 2020, followed by Turkey with 11,150 applications (18.1 percent), Ukraine with 10,250 applications (16.7 percent), Romania with 7,700 applications (12.5 percent) and Italy with 3,400 applications (5.5 percent).

Applications in comparison to population

When the population of the countries is compared to the number of cases filed against them with the court in 2020, Montenegro is at the top of the list, with 3.5 applications for every 10,000 citizens. It is followed by Serbia with 2.5 applications, Bosnia and Herzegovina with 2.49 applications, Lichtenstein with 2.31 applications and Latvia with 2.17 applications for every 10,000 citizens.

The United Kingdom ranks at the bottom of this list, with 0.04 applications for every 10,000 citizens, followed by Germany with 0.07 applications, Ireland with 0.08 applications and Spain with 0.09 applications for every 10,000 people in 2020.

Turkey, with 1.09 applications filed against it with the court for every 10,000 citizens, stands above the average.

Spano said it is the responsibility and duty of all CoE countries to enforce ECtHR rulings. However, Turkey has been criticized for failing to implement the court’s rulings in the cases of jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and jailed businessman and rights activist Osman Kavala, both arrested on politically motivated charges.

The court called for Demirtaş’s and Kavala’s immediate release from prison in rulings in 2018 and in 2019, respectively.

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