Turkey’s key problem now freedom of press instead of torture, judge says

Turkey’s key problem now freedom of press instead of torture, judge says

İpek Yezdani – ISTANBUL
Turkey’s key problem now freedom of press instead of torture, judge says Turkish judge Işıl Karakaş, who was recently elected as the new vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights, has said Turkey’s image as a country that tolerates “torture” has been replaced with the image of a country that does not protect the freedom of press.

“Turkey is regarded as a country where the freedom of speech and press is not protected and guaranteed in the essence of European standards. The Council of Europe’s bodies especially pay attention to this issue,” said Karakaş in a recent interview with daily Hürriyet. 

“Turkey had the image of a country where torture was tolerated; I am happy to say that this image does not exist anymore. [But] what replaced it? The image of a country where freedom of press and speech is not protected, the Internet it blocked and continuous lawsuits are filed against people for insulting the president. Such practices do not exist in Europe,” said Karakaş. 

“Insult crimes are not regulated in criminal law. If you believe that there is an intervention with your honor, then you can file a complaint demanding compensation [rather than a lawsuit in a criminal court],” said Karakaş, referring to recent lawsuits filed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the grounds that he was insulted. 

“Particularly press freedom has been greatly harmed in Turkey. For instance, YouTube and Twitter were blocked. They were reopened with a Constitutional Court decision. But an amendment in 2015 has allowed the blocking of these websites altogether. Does this amendment comply with the rule of law? Is it in line with the ECHR’s acquis?” she added.

Russia and Turkey are at the top of the list of countries that do not apply decisions by the ECHR. “This issue will be discussed at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Council this week,” she added.

The ECHR has elected two new vice-presidents: Karakaş from Turkey and András Sajó from Hungary. They have both been elected for a three-year term and will take up their respective duties on Nov. 1.

Karakaş, who was born Dec. 8, 1958, in Istanbul, worked as director of the Research and Documentation Center on Europe at Galatasaray University between 2002 and 2008. She became the head of the Department of Public International Law and Faculty of Law at the same university from 2003 to 2008. She was also a visiting professor at the universities of Aix-Marseille III, Reims, Montpellier II and Strasbourg Robert Schuman. She has been a judge at the ECHR since May 1, 2008, where she was a vice president section from Nov. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2014. She has been a section president since Jan. 1.