Bianet has reported that European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judge Isil Karakas has named Turkey as the country with the worst conditions regarding freedom of expression and press freedom. This year alone, the number of application to the ECHR has jumped from 6500 last year to 9000. As she says, ‘Arrest has become the norm, not the exception’. Read the full article below:

30 November 2011

ECHR judge Karakaş said that among all member states of the Council of Europe, Turkey was the country in the worst situation considering press freedom and freedom of expression. Turkey is the country with the most convictions ruled by the ECHR in this area.

 Işıl Karakaş, judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), emphasized that periods of detention and custody in Turkey were a big problem. Moreover, the number of applications made to the ECHR by Turkish nationals significantly increased this year, she said.

Read here the summary of an interview with judge Karakaş held by NTV reporter Kayhan Karaca.

* The number of applications filed to the ECHR from Turkey in 2011 has increased incredibly. This year, about 9,000 applications were made compared with less than 6,500 last year. This shows that some things are not going right in Turkey despite a set of regulations, reforms or developments expected for the judiciary.

* Saying that the number of applications has grown exponentially shows that the rights and freedoms guaranteed under domestic law are not sufficient. Most of the applications coming from Turkey are concerned with the lengths of detention and trial periods. These two issues are connected to each other as a matter of fact.

* Arrest is not a concern that can be resorted to in any situation all the time. The decision on arrest can only be given under very specific and precise conditions. In Turkey, exactly the opposite is the case. Arrest became the norm and release an exception.

* The basic reason for us to find a violation in a trial are clichéd judge decisions that lack an explication of the matter and a sufficient justification. The law should be amended with regard to the period of detention.

* Considering press freedom and freedom of expression Turkey is the state in the worst condition. It is the country with the highest number of decisions for violations in the field of press freedom and freedom of expression. Turkey is followed by France with ten violations whereas this figure exceeds two hundred for Turkey.

* There are many problems arising from freedom of expression in Turkey, especially the Anti-Terror Law. Articles 2 and 5 are not in compliance with the case law of the ECHR and the European Convention on Human Rights.

* The result of the application filed by Taner Akçam is a very important decision. In fact, the ECHR had previously ruled in the Hrant Dink decision that the application and interpretation of Article 301 [Insulting the Turkish nation] by the Court of Appeals did not suit the requirements of a democratic social order. As pointed out by the ECHR in the Akçam decision, the mere existence of this Article is a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human rights on freedom of expression. In other words, Article 301 is in breach of Article 10 of the Convention.

* The existence of this article violates freedom of expression. Its wording is vague and unclear. Additionally, changing the term ‘Turkishness’ to ‘Turkish Nation’ did not change much. It is an obligation for Turkey to remove Article 301 from the regulation.

* The ECHR Grand Chamber decided against Armenia in the case of Bayatyan. For the first time, the court interpreted the right to conscientious objection in the scope of Article 9 of the Convention on freedom of religion and conscience. Today, it is a right to have the issue of conscientious objection assessed in the scope of freedom of religion and conscience.

* Also in the Erçep decision it was said that “Turkey has to amend legal regulations accordingly by all means and has to recognize the right to conscientious objection. Furthermore, an additional public service as an alternative service should be put in place for people who use this right. I do not think Turkey has any other choice than that. (AS/VK)

For more information on freedom of expression issues in Turkey, download the International PEN resolutions Sept 2011, which expresses the organisation’s explicit concern about laws and practices in Turkey that allow the prosecution of writers solely for their writing. In particular, they highlight the case of writer and lawyer Muharrem Erbey, who has for the last few years been the president of the Diyarbakir branch of the  Human Rights Association (IHD).