Constitutional Court decisions in favor of citizens

Constitutional Court decisions in favor of citizens

The Constitutional Court (AYM) has ruled that there were violations in 23 verdicts following citizens’ individual applications to the court.

On the Constitutional Court’s website, it is possible to read the texts of 14 of these verdicts. Including the recent Haberal-Balbay verdict, the other nine verdicts have not been posted on the site because their texts are still being drafted.

There is an interesting diversity in terms of the results citizens have obtained through individual applications since Sept. 24, 2012.

When we take a look at the 14 verdicts, most of which have been reached in the fall months, we see the following trend:

Violation of the presumption of innocence: There is only one text about the “violation of the presumption of innocence.” It is about an expert gendarmerie officer who was subjected to obligatory retirement because he was accused of a series of crimes. The applicant filed a suit to annul the decision, but the Military High Court rejected it. The AYM examined the rejection upon a complaint from the applicant, ruling that the 38th Article of the Constitution, “No one shall be found guilty until proven guilty in a court of law,” was violated, ordering that the applicant should be tried again.

Attention to the right to a fair trial within a reasonable period of time: The high court ruled in a total of four applications that Article 36 under the “Freedom to Claim Rights” had been violated. Three of the violations were about land disputes or objections to expropriation prices, the cases of which lasted 10 or more years. The fourth is a file about the prolongation of a case in a labor court about a layoff. The fact that this case took three years and five months was not a “reasonable” period. Access to litigation cannot be denied: In another category, the court ruled there had been violations within the framework of Article 36 that “Everyone has the right of litigation.” There are three different verdicts in this category. One of them is the case of an officer who was wounded during a parachute jump and relocated while in recovery. The officer filed an objection at the Military High Court and the court rejected the objection because of the statute of limitations. Another is about a soldier who was wounded by a landmine and filed a suit for compensation. He was asked to pay the legal costs, while his objection to this was rejected. Also in Mersin, a citizen was fined because he did not prepare a business document on time; his objection was also rejected because it was not filed on time. In all three cases, the court decided that the citizens were right and that “their access to court had been violated.”

Violation of the right to life in the Van Earthquake: Two other noteworthy verdicts of the court were related to applications by relatives of the 24 people who died when the Bayram Hotel collapsed in the second Van earthquake of 2011. The essence of these verdicts lies in the decision of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals to not process the complaints about the then-governor of Van and provincial emergency officials. Objections from the families to the Council of State (Danıştay) were also rejected.

The AYM has reached the opinion that “an effective and deterrent criminal investigation was not launched” and that this violated the “procedural dimension of the right to life as ruled in the Constitution’s Article 17.”

The AYM decided to send a copy of the verdict to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals. In other words, it is telling the chief prosecutor “to take a second look at the file.”
No matter how you look at it, these two decisions taken unanimously by the Constitutional Court, in terms of preventing the cover-up of an investigation file on deceased citizens in earthquake, are strikingly important as they demonstrate quite advanced practices regarding the rule of law in Turkey.

*Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this abridged piece was published on Dec 12. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.