Turkish jail term suits to Euro court on halt until panel decision

Turkish jail term suits to Euro court on halt until panel decision

Turkish jail term suits to Euro court on halt until panel decision

This file photo shows journalists in Ankara protesting their colleagues’ jailing. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has announced that it will not accept any case from Turkey in connection to long detention periods until September because Ankara is currently drafting formulas to address the issue.

“The [ECHR has] decided to adjourn examination of [such] applications not yet communicated to the Turkish government and those lodged between now and Sept. 22, 2012,” the Strasbourg-based court said in a written statement, but added that applications that have already been made would continue to be examined by the court under normal procedures.

The ECHR has called on Turkey to establish a special commission to handle cases on the excessive length of judicial proceedings and long detention periods before they are taken to Strasbourg as a means to address the backlog of cases. 

“The court held, with regard to the applications pending before it and those lodged between now and Sept. 22, 2012, that Turkey had to put in place … an effective remedy affording adequate and sufficient redress in cases where judicial proceedings exceeded a reasonable time,” the court said. 

Turkey, which ranks after Russia in the number of cases taken to the ECHR, has been trying to reduce the number of cases at the court after they climbed up to nearly 3,000 complaints – many of which were lodged in relation to long detention periods. The Turkish Justice Ministry and the ECHR negotiated on the matter recently and agreed to set up a special mechanism for those who want to complain about lengthy proceedings. 

Justice Ministry will set up commission 

The new commission will be modeled after an independent commission that was established in 2004 at the urging of the ECHR to compensate victims of terrorism. The Justice Ministry, who will decide on the mechanism’s working procedures, will also be responsible for its establishment.

Establishing a special mechanism procedure has been used by the ECHR in recent years to deal with large groups of identical cases arising out of the same structural problem, it said. The European court will also examine the functioning of the commission before deciding whether it could formally become a special mechanism. 

“Similar commissions have been established in some other countries as well. In Poland and in Italy for example,” Rıza Türmen, a former Turkish judge at the ECHR and current Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy. 

Not a solution for lengthy proceedings 

Türmen said the establishment of the mechanism would save Turkey from being convicted due to the absence of an effective remedy for complainants of lengthy processing and detention periods.

“Cases about complaints on long judicial proceedings will first come to this commission. But this won’t change the situation with regard to excessive proceedings. For example, though Mustafa Balbay could apply to this commission and could be compensated, his court case would continue. Also, Balbay will be able to apply to the ECHR. Therefore this commission is not a solution for excessive judicial proceedings,” Türmen said. 

Balbay, a CHP deputy, has not been convicted despite spending three years in detention. He applied to the ECHR on the grounds that his right to a fair trail had been violated. 

However, the establishment of such a channel would be welcomed by the ECHR as it would not only reduce the number of cases to be heard but would also improve Turkey’s poor record at implementing the European court’s rulings. 

Structural and systemic problem 

The ECHR has repeated its criticisms against Turkey on long judicial proceedings, saying it is the state’s responsibility to deal with this problem. 

“The [ECHR] had already found in numerous cases that the length of proceedings in Turkey, in administrative, civil, criminal and commercial cases … was excessive. The court reiterated that states should organize their courts in such a way as to administer justice without delays which might jeopardize its effectiveness and credibility,” it said. 

Underlining that there had been repeated violations of the right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time, the court said it amounted “to a structural and systemic problem with the legal system.”

Cyprus model 

In an effort to end a systemic problem concerning displaced Greek Cypriots who owned immovable property in northern Cyprus, Turkey established a similar commission to compensate or redress Greek Cypriot applicants. The mechanism has been successful as many Greek Cypriots have applied to the Immovable Property Commission despite discouragement from Greek Cyprus.

Ankara Bureau reporter Hüseyin Hayatsever contributed to this story.