Nebahat Akkoc says her life started anew after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2000 that she had been tortured while in detention in Turkey, emboldening her and others to continue their fight for human rights. womens rights.
Now she fears Turks will lose such protections as Turkey faces expulsion from the Council of Europe (CoE), a top human rights body, after failing to implement a 2019 court ruling to free imprisoned businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala.
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has launched an infringement procedure against Ankara which has so far focused on dialogue but could eventually see Turkey withdraw or its membership suspended, according to the experts.
Asked about potential steps, a CoE spokesperson said it was up to the Committee to decide on the steps and their timing.
ECHR data shows it issued 3,820 judgments relating to Turkey between 1959 and 2021, 3,385 of which included at least one rights violation – the highest of any country. Turkey has the largest population among the 46 Member States and signed the Convention before many of them.
This is the second time that proceedings have been launched against a Member State. In the previous case, Azerbaijan finally executed a decision.
Although the consequences are not described, experts say Turkey should not be expelled because it would deprive 85 million citizens of a mechanism that has compensated thousands.
“I hope the Council of Europe will not deliver the deathblow,” said Akkoc, a prominent women’s rights advocate. “I hope that the (Turkish) authorities will implement the decisions of the ECHR and that we will not be completely cut off from the Western world.”
She said Turkey’s refusal to implement ECHR rulings made her “pessimistic”. But if it were no longer bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, the rule of law in Turkey would be void, she added.
Akkoc filed ECHR petitions in the 1990s, including for the murder of her husband and allegations that she was tortured while in police custody for 10 days in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir in 1994.
In 2000, the court ruled that the Turkish state had failed to protect her husband’s life and that the treatment inflicted on Akkoc in detention, including electric shocks and beatings on the head, constituted torture.
“Being able to win a court battle, being able to see that justice works regardless, gives you incredible energy,” Akkoc said.
Turkey had yet to fully implement 521 ECHR judgments and decisions as of November 8, including 136 “leading” cases, which often concern new structural or systemic issues, the CoE spokesperson said.
The Kavala case has drawn criticism from Turkey’s Western allies over a politicized justice system. The Committee has also repeatedly called for the release of pro-Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas.
Ayse Isil Erguvenc, a former ECHR judge and professor of law at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, said the proceedings were initiated because of the decision that Kavala’s detention had served to silence him – the first such conviction in Turkey.
The Committee said in September that officials should discuss further steps to take if Kavala is not released.
Erguvenc said this suggests the Committee prefers dialogue.
“The Committee of Ministers could have taken a much more radical decision here but it did not,” she added.
The Council of Europe spokesperson said senior Council of Europe officials had “repeatedly underlined” the “binding obligation” of member states to implement ECHR judgments.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has not commented on this story. Ankara told the Committee last week that Kavala’s appeal and a petition to the Constitutional Court were still pending.