RIGHTS > Lengthy detentions 'unconstitutional,' Turkey's top court rules


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The lengthy detentions were one of the main areas of criticism in Turkey’s EU progress reports over the years.

The lengthy detentions were one of the main areas of criticism in Turkey’s EU progress reports over the years.

Lengthy pre-trial detentions are “unconstitutional,” Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled, answering four individual applications.

The decision announced late July 2 is expected to impact the course of key trials in Turkey such as the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot case; the Ergenekon coup plot case; cases against suspected members of the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); and a case against those involved in a harsh army-led campaign that forced the resignation of the government in June 1997, in an event known as the “Feb. 28 process.”

Furthermore, it will help harmonize Turkish law with verdicts from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

While the court ruled on four cases, it rejected an application from a defendant over lack of territorial jurisdiction due to the timing of the applicant’s arrest as part of the Balyoz case. The court ruled that the application was submitted before the Constitutional Court started admitting applications on Sept. 23, 2012. Allegations that the defendant did not receive a fair trial have yet to be considered, Anadolu Agency reported July 3. Out of four applications the court has ruled on, three were related to long detention periods of up to five years, while the other was on a long trial period. The applications solely involved cases of ordinary crime, and were thus not political. However, the Constitutional Court only decides on whether the rights of the applicant have been are violated, so the conviction of defendants must still be ruled by local courts.

The court also promised to act in harmony with the ECHR, whose decisions will set a legal precedent. “We have fully accepted the ECHR’s criteria. Our Constitution will act in line with ECHR verdicts about the long detention periods and proceedings,” Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç told daily Hürriyet.

According to the new regulations, in long detention cases, the verdicts of the ECHR will take precedence over Turkey’s internal practices. Lengthy decisions have been one of the key areas criticized in Turkey’s EU progress reports over the years.

‘A positive step’

The Constitutional Court’s regulation is a positive step and the given progressive verdicts are correct in the sense of creating precedents and avoiding new rights violations, Bahçeşehir University Constitutional Law department teaching assistant, Serkan Köybaşı told the Hürriyet Daily News.

However, Köybaşı also said not implementing the same criteria for the alleged coup-plot case Balyoz (Sledgehammer) was unlawful since appealed cases were ongoing and even if verdicts were given, the suspects’ penalties were not definite.

In the first place, implementing individual applications to the Constitutional Court was a malicious move to block Turkish citizens’ direct way to apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Köybaşı said.

The possibility of individual applications to the Constitutional Court was introduced into the Turkish legal system through amendments in 2010. Sept. 23, 2012, was set as the first day such applications could be received.

Article 148 of the Constitution stipulates that anyone who thinks that his or her constitutional rights set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights have been infringed by a public authority will have the right to apply to the Constitutional Court after exhausting all other administrative and judicial remedies.

Erdem Güneş from Istanbul contributed to this report.


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Tekion Particle

7/3/2013 6:36:57 PM

Scandalous, 2 years detention without trial or proof of guilt? What? What kind of democratic system is this? If you cannot prove the guilt why did you arrest the people? How do you know they are guilty then? What gives them the right to imprison people like caged animals without a trial and a verdict? That constitution needs to be binned and instead of writing a new one just copy a working constitution of a proper democratic country, call a referendum and adopt and implemented it, simple.


7/3/2013 5:14:56 PM

What can you say about this broken system. Is it the schools where these people get there law degrees? Shameful!

mara mcglothin

7/3/2013 4:29:07 PM

Everyone held without charge should sue the government for their reputation, and they should be paid per day of illegal detention at the sum they would make had they been working OR 1,000,000 per year which ever is greater!


7/3/2013 3:07:35 PM

What took so long? Judicial system is the most backward institution in the land.


7/3/2013 2:09:34 PM

Wonderful news! It too a long time - probably too long - to reach this conclusion but it still shows a democatic constitutional court free of pregudicial ties to the AKP. Bravo! Time will tell if this is effective and not just window dressing. Much depends on lower courts' compliance with this decision. It is a real test for democracy in Turkey

Ali Kanat

7/3/2013 11:29:15 AM

This is something like progress, at least. EU or no EU, Turkish legal system needs thorough reform


7/3/2013 10:59:02 AM

"Lengthy detentions 'unconstitutional' Turkey's top court rules" are this guys really a judge . . why it took ages to understand this is wrong...puppets
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