ECHR fines Turkey over violent police intervention at 2008 May Day rally

ECHR fines Turkey over violent police intervention at 2008 May Day rally

ECHR fines Turkey over violent police intervention at 2008 May Day rally Turkey will pay over 145,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages to a total of 19 Turkish nationals for forcefully intervening in a 2008 demonstration to mark International Workers’ Day on May 1. 

Three large labor unions, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ), and the Turkish Union of Doctors (TTB) had applied to the Istanbul Governor’s Office to stage a demonstration at the symbolic Taksim Square on May 1, 2008. The group had intended to commemorate the 34 people who died and the 126 people who sustained injuries in the bloody May Day of 1977. 

The Governor’s Office refused to give permission for use of the central square but did permit a group of DİSK board members to lay a wreath at the monument of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. It also took strict security measures to prevent labor unions and protesters from marking the day at Taksim Square.

According to the complaints of the plaintiffs, security forces attacked the DİSK building, a group of demonstrators inside a hospital, as well as a group of doctors demonstrating outside the emergency department of a hospital, using water cannons and tear gas amid clashes that continued until late on May 1, 2008. 

The plaintiffs pursued legal proceedings against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in addition to three ministers, the governor, the Istanbul chief of police, and other senior security officials, but all complaints were rejected. 

The complainants subsequently appealed to the ECHR, citing “disproportionate use of force” to disperse the gathering, claiming a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting inhumane or degrading treatment. They also cited a violation of Article 11 on freedom of assembly and association. 

The ECHR ruled that the Turkish authorities had indeed violated Article 11 and ordered the state to pay 10,000 euros to each of two complainants, in addition to 7,500 euros each to 17 complainants.