The drop in applications from Turkey to the ECHR

The drop in applications from Turkey to the ECHR

One of the developments the Luxembourgian President of the European Court of Human Right (ECHR) Dean Spielmann announced as “particularly pleasing” in his press conference was the decrease in the number of files of high case-count countries, such as Turkey.

Spielmann said, “Turkey, which for a long time occupied second place, is now in fifth. The reforms it has carried out, in particular the introduction of new remedies, are a step in the right direction.”

He also mentioned “long procedures” in Turkey, the bad physical conditions of detention centers in Russia and the compensation issue of seized property during the communist era in Albania.

There have been 128,100 applications to be processed at the end of 2012. This figure went down to 99,900 at the end of 2013.

Out of this total of almost 128 thousand files at the end of 2012, the ones that came from Russia were 28,600 (22.3 percent). Turkey was second with 16,900 (13.2 percent) files. More than one third of the applications accumulating before the court came from the duo of Turkey and Russia.

In the court’s official statistics, at the end of 2013, the situation changed. Among the total of nearly 100,000 files of ECHR, Russia is first with 16,800 applications, while Turkey has gone down to the fifth place after Italy, Ukraine and Serbia. The number of Turkey’s pending files has gone down to 10,950. Compared to 2012, a decrease of 5,950 files is in question.

Where does this drop come from? Unfortunately, we are very far from the point where we could say the reason for this drop is because of the fall in human rights violations in Turkey. An important reason for the drop is because it has become obligatory that for individual application to the ECHR, one must first go to the Constitutional Court. This was done by the 2010 referendum and was effective as of Sept. 24, 2012.

According to the chart at the Constitutional Court’s website, the number of individual applications to the court that were processed during 2013 is 9,897. If the Constitutional Court was not involved, probably all of these applications would have directly gone to Strasbourg and add to the caseload there.

One other factor is the Compensation Commission, which was formed within the scope of the Law No. 6384 that was prepared upon the recommendation of ECHR last year. This commission has absorbed a significant portion of the court’s file load.

This mechanism was formed to ease the accumulation of files caused by complaints directed to ECHR because of “long procedures.” All of the applications that have reached the ECHR under this category were sent to the Compensation Commission in Ankara. If citizens accept the compensation determined by the commission, then the file is closed. If the compensation is unsatisfactory, then again, after all domestic remedies have been exhausted; the road to apply to the ECHR is again open.

This mechanism seems to have provided a serious breathing space for the ECHR. In the court’s 2013 report, it was written that some 2,500 files falling under the category of “long procedures” were referred to the Compensation Commission in Turkey.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the ECHR has referred about 500 files that involve complaints on “non-execution of judicial verdicts” to the commission also.

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry has emphasized a third factor in a recent statement, saying, “The judicial packages issued and judicial practices developed by ECHR standards have created a significant support for the improvement of the image before the ECHR.”

The practice the Constitutional Court has developed in line with ECHR practices particularly on long detention periods restricting it to five years is an important indicator of how much of a caseload the high court has undertaken.

The more the judiciary in Turkey comes closer to ECHR practices in their decisions, the fewer citizens will need to go to Strasbourg.