Turkey's Constitutional Court appeals give hope to thousands

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Constitutional Court of Turkey has received around 17,000 applications from individuals since 2012, when the right of individual appeal entered into force since the 2010 constitutional referendum

The Constitutional Court of Turkey has received around 17,000 applications from individuals since 2012, when the right of individual appeal entered into force since the 2010 constitutional referendum

ANKARA - The right of individual applications to Turkey's Constitutional Court since 2012 has meant "hope" for almost 17,000 people including well-known figures, ranging from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Aziz Yildirim, the chairman of Fenerbahce Football Club.

The constitutional amendments, for which Turkish citizens gave the go-ahead in a 2010 referendum, introduced the individual application into the Turkish judicial system, and the Constitutional Court began to receive such applications as of 23 September 2012.

This move was made as a measure to decrease the recently growing number of individuals in Turkey who attempted to bring their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the Strasbourg-based judicial organ of the Council of Europe, that is charged with supervising the enforcement of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Since then, the Constitutional Court has seen a large number of people who have exercised their right to lodge a complaint which has been breached by a public authority, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, after exhausting other administrative and judicial remedies. 

Among these people, the most notable is Turkish Premier Erdogan who made an individual appeal to the Court on April 18, citing 'breaches of his right to privacy and freedom of communication due to illegal wiretapping.'

In his application, he asked to ensure that the Court rulings, which ordered the removal of some web content shared on the popular micro-blogging site Twitter and video-sharing platform Youtube, be implemented as it caused human rights violations against him and his family.

Turkey's telecoms authority TIB introduced an "administrative" block on Twitter late March for two weeks after a leaked recording of phone conversations of government top officials was posted on the social networking and microblogging service. The move was followed by an ongoing ban on video-sharing site YouTube.

In one of its recent rulings that made a tremendous impact in the public eye, the Court deemed the ban on access to Twitter as a violation of freedom of communication and expression.

Moreover, the U.S.-based YouTube Company has also filed an individual complaint to the Court via its attorney in Turkey, demanding the ban on their website be lifted. 

The Constitutional Court has concluded around seven thousand of the overall 17 thousand individual cases it received since 2012. Among these concluded cases, it ruled in early March that the imprisonment of the former head of the Turkish Armed Forces, Ilker Basbug constitutes a violation of his legal rights.

Basbug, released pending trial upon the Court ruling, was convicted in August last year of plotting attacks against the Turkish government to prepare the way for a military coup and of being part of an alleged organization called "Ergenekon." He was sentenced by a court in Istanbul to life in prison.

The Turkish Constitutional Court also found the applications of Republican People's Party (CHP) deputies Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal, who were both convicted and jailed over the same coup trial but now released, justified as their detentions exceeded the reasonable duration of five years and their rights to stand for election were violated.

Other famous figures who made individual complaints to the Constitutional Court for right breaches include Fenerbahce Football Club's Chairman Aziz Yildirim, who had an upheld six-year and three-month jail term for forming an illegal organization and involvement in a 2010-11 match-fixing scandal in Turkey's first division.

Yildirim's case, in which he demanded a halt to the execution of the prison sentence on the grounds that his right to due process was violated, is still being heard by the Court.

Directors of Fenerbahce and several other Turkish clubs, as well as players, have been charged with match-fixing. UEFA – European football's governing body – barred Fenerbahce from the Champions' League for two seasons as a result of its investigation.

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