Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Turkey: Cases Before European Court of Human Rights on Lengthy Detentions to Be Addressed

(Mar. 6, 2012) Turkey's Minister of Justice, Sadullah Ergin, announced on March 1, 2012, that the government would establish a special commission to handle cases filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR or ECtHR) on lengthy periods of detention and trial in Turkey, based on a compromised reached with the ECHR. (Turkey to Address ECtHR Cases on Lengthy Detentions, TODAY'S ZAMAN (Mar. 2, 2012).) Under the plan, if the ECHR approves the commission decision on a case, the case will not be tried by the ECHR. (Turkey to Hear Cases Before Court of Rights, HURRIYET DAILY NEWS (Mar. 3, 2012).)

The ultimate aim of the arrangement is “to decrease the number of cases on Turkey waiting for trial” at the ECHR. (Id.) Ergin stated:

Now, there are nearly 3,000 cases filed in that court in relation to long detention and trial periods in Turkey, and this number will exceed 3,500 by Sept. 23, 2012, at which time individuals can apply to the Constitutional Court. The right of individual application to the Constitutional Court will eventually cause a drop in the number of applications filed to the ECtHR, but until that time, the commission will serve as an effective domestic remedy. We have reached a consensus with the ECtHR to set up a commission that will deal with these cases. (Turkey to Address ECtHR Cases on Lengthy Detentions, supra.)

The new commission is to be modeled after an independent commission that had been set up in 2004 at the urging of the ECHR to compensate victims of terrorism, Ergin noted. According to the Minister,

the ECtHR will set a new schedule to establish the commission within 20 days and send a pilot file to Turkey. If the ECtHR finds the commission set up by the Turkish government to be effective and the compensation reasonable, it will turn over all cases filed at the ECtHR from Turkey that are related to long detention and trial periods to the commission. (Id.)

Ergin commented that Turkish citizens would not be permitted to apply to the ECHR before they applied to the commission. (Turkey to Hear Cases Before Court of Rights, supra.)

It reportedly can take an average of five years for a case to be handled in Turkey, “and many cases have been pending for decades.” (Turkey to Address ECtHR Cases on Lengthy Detentions, supra.) As of early 2011, according to a news report, there were some 57,000 persons incarcerated in Turkey who awaited verdicts or approval of a lower court ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals, a body that acts like a court of cassation and an appeals court combined. Among the arrested are members of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party and of the Nationalist Movement Party. (Id.)

In a press release that was issued at the end of January 2012, ECHR President Sir Nicolas Bratza commented that in the ECHR's annual table of violations by country for 2011, “Turkey had the highest number of judgments finding at least one violation of the [European] Convention [on Human Rights] recorded against it (159) … .” Russia was next highest, with 121. (Press Release, ECHR 034 (2012), “Human Rights Are a Shared Responsibility” Says European Court President (Jan. 26, 2012) [conduct search].)