Turkey and the European Court of Human Rights

Ergun Özbudun and Füsun Türkmen have last November published an excellent article in Human Rights Quarterly on “Impact of the ECtHR Rulings on Turkey’s Democratization: An Evaluation”. Here is the abstract:

Turkey has long retained the record of individual applications before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). On the other hand, the ECtHR has been playing a crucial role in the democratization of this country, as most of its rulings were followed by substantial reforms. This, however, cannot conceal a dichotomy: although the reforms reflect the political will of the government, the decisions rendered by national courts often indicate the opposite, hampering the democratization process and leaving the country with a judiciary impasse. The reasons and consequences of this phenomenon are analyzed in this essay.

This article is a well-worth read. One may note that similar studies are need in the respect of several other member states of the Council of Europe.

Öcalan wins again

The European Court of Human Rights has on 18 March 2013 delivered judgment (summary in English) in Abdullah Öcalan v Turkey (no 2, 24069/03, 197/04, 6201/06 and 10464/07). This is already the second time that the Court dealt with the complaint by Mr Öcalan, the founder of Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The same Court examined his first complaint already in 2005 when it found that Turkey violated several articles (Articles 5 (3 and 4) and Article 3 of ECHR) during and following his arrest at the Nairobi airport and his subsequent transfer to Turkey (no. 46221/99, 12.5.2005).  This time around Mr Öcalan complained of his inhumane detention conditions on the island of İmralı, where he was held alone for nearly 11 years, until 17 November 2009. The Court agreed and found violation in respect of the inhumane conditions of his detention (Article 3). More specifically, the Court held that :

les conditions de détention imposées au requérant pendant cette période ont atteint le seuil minimum de gravité requis pour constituer un traitement inhumain au sens de l’article 3 de la Convention. (para. 146)

The Court also held that the sentence of life imprisonment amounts to the violation of inhuman treatment under Article 3 of ECHR as his prison sentence was found to be »irreducible« (para. 207). Turkey is now obliged to offer Mr Öcalan procedural possibility to challenge his sentence of life imprisonment as unjustified. All in all, this case represent a symbolic victory for Mr Öcalan but it remains to bee seen how quickly and if at all Turkey will execute the judgment.