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European rights court fines Turkey for unlawful strip-search in prison

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has faulted Turkey for violating the private and family life of Elif Kaya, who was subjected to a strip-search in prison in 2013, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

The court on Monday published its decision that Turkish authorities responsible for carrying out the investigation into Kaya’s allegations as well as the Turkish Constitutional Court failed to give due consideration to the applicant’s allegations.

Kaya was detained on June 20, 2013 during the Gezi protests, arrested on June 23 and incarcerated in İzmir Prison, where she was subjected to a strip-search.

The protests in 2013 erupted over then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government’s plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. The protests spread to other cities across the country and quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

The ECtHR ruled that Kaya’s right to private life, cited in the 8th article of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), had been violated. According to the Strasbourg court, there was also a violation of the procedural aspect of Article 3 of the convention.

The court ordered Turkey to pay 12,500 euros to Kaya in in non-pecuniary damages.

Article 8 of the convention states: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

The rights court has also found strip-searches to constitute degrading treatment when not justified by compelling security reasons and/or due to the way they were conducted. But the practice has been frequently used by Turkish prison guards against people suspected or convicted of political crimes.

The testimony of an increasing number of women detained on terrorism charges shows that Turkish prison guards use strip-searches unlawfully and systematically to humiliate them.

In August 2020 30 university students who were detained in Uşak province due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, were strip-searched before admission to a detention facility. Students were also interrogated without a lawyer present.

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