Veysel Ok: European Court's slowness in responding to applications from Turkey is disappointing

22 February 2018

Turkish lawyer Veysel Ok, who is a co-founder and the Vice President of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), has said that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) taking too long to announce its decision regarding applications filed by Turkish journalists has been a disappointment.

Speaking at a panel held at the Austrian Journalists Club  and organized by the “Platform for Supremacy of Law in Turkey" on “Passiveness of the European Court in the case of Arbitrary Detentions and the Erosion of rule of Law in Turkey,” on 21 February, Ok said although everyone appreciated the Court’s immense workload, it still has taken too long to make a decision in the cases of Turkish journalists.

Ok, who is the lawyer of Deniz Yücel and the Altan brothers, said that the European Court dragged its feet in announcing its decision regarding  the cases of journalists Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, although it knew that a verdict would be made on 16 February when the Altan brothers -- whose European Court applications were filed by Ok -- Nazlı Ilıcak, Fevzi Yazıcı and two others were sentenced to life in prison on trumped-up charges.

Recalling that local courts in Turkey have refused to obey a Constitutional Court ruling which ordered the release of imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, he said Turkish journalists and lawyers have had to turn to the European Court in these dark times.

Ok said the Court’s slowness has had dire consequences, which have led to the deepening of rights violations and arbitrariness in Turkey.

“It’s our responsibility to show solidarity with those demanding supremacy of law”

Friedrich Forsthuber, head of the criminal law committee of the Austrian Judges Association, delivered the opening speech, giving details about the platform and its activities. He said if the series of accusations leveled at journalists and others could be tried before independent courts, they would have been concluded with acquittals.

Stating that an independent judiciary, free media are the most important checks in a democratic society, Forsthuber said the losses in Turkey in these areas have had dire consequences. However, he said a majority of the people in Turkey still demand supremacy of law to be implemented in Turkey, he said it is a responsibility to show support for and solidarity with these groups.

“There is no judiciary in Turkey”

Ceren Uysal, a board member from the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD), started her words saying, “There is no judiciary in Turkey.” She offered a list of violations of the right to a fair trial, made possible under Turkey’s State of Emergency which has effectively turned into ruling by decree.

She said mass judges and prosecutor arrest had turned other judges and prosecutors who are outside into “arrestees” mentally.

“We can’t speak of a morsel of justice in Turkey’s courthouses and prisons today. We can’t speak of any hope for justice.”

She also read a letter from Selçuk Kozaağaçlı, the imprisoned head of ÇHD, who is being kept in solitary confinement.

Human Rights Law Professor Tretter: “ECtHR should review post-emergency rule rulings”

Human rights law professor Hannes Tretter, who is also head of the Ludwig Biolzman Human Rights Institute, who spoke at the panel criticized ECtHR decisions regarding the exhaustion of domestic remedies and a resolution which referred to a commission to review some expulsions and closers under State of Emergency decrees as a “domestic remedy.” Tretter said that there couldn’t be a referral to “domestic legal remedies” as there are no independent and judicial mechanisms in Turkey.

Tretter said both the Court and European institutions should do more to protect the values of fundamental human rights. He said that as Lawyer Ok pointed out, as long as the European Court continues its current practices, its credibility will be questioned not only in the eyes of Turkish jurists and lawyers but as well as those in Europe and the European public.