26 international and Türkiye-based non-governmental organizations, including the Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders, and 7 bar associations in the country presented a Rule 9.2 communication regarding the execution of the European Court of Human Rights’ Oya Ataman Group judgments. The casesconcern the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Türkiye and are under the judgment execution supervision of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. The Committee will evaluate the joint submission of the non-governmental organisations and bar associations together with the recent action plan by Türkiye in its meeting on 7-9 March 2023. The submission draws attention to the importance of the Committee’s role in monitoring the implementation of the relevant judgments and formulates the general measures that Türkiye must take to comply with the Court’s case-law and international human rights standards.
Oya Ataman group consists of 74 cases addressing important legal, social and political issues in Türkiye related to the right to peaceful assembly and association guaranteed under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the right to life (article 2), the prohibition of torture (article 3), the right to liberty and security (article 5), the right to freedom of expression (article 10) and the right to an effective remedy (article 13). Although the Committee of Ministers closed 64 of these cases “without prejudice to the continuing need for general measures”, the joint submission underlines that there are growing and serious shortcomings in domestic legislation and in the judicial and administrative practice of the Turkish authorities. The communication sets out a number of general measures necessary for the full implementation of the case-law of the ECtHR on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Türkiye and requests the Committee to ensure their adoption.
The non-governmental organisations and bar associations underline that, in the light of the reports of non-governmental organizations and official statistics, the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has seriously deteriorated in Türkiye, especially in the period following the 2016 coup attempt. Accordingly, the practices of the Turkish authorities such as systematically declaring meetings, demonstrations, and marches “illegal” by imposing general or specific prohibitions; the inappropriate and disproportionate use of force in police interventions and detentions in peaceful gatherings as well as impunity for police officers who bear responsibility; and the exposing of demonstrators and participants to administrative fines and judicial sanctions increased even after the lifting of the state of emergency in 2018.
According to non-governmental organizations and bar associations, especially women’s rights groups, those based in the regions with a high Kurdish population, LGBTI+ groups, and workers are among those most exposed to these serious and systematic rights violations.
The submission contests the government’s claims in its action plan of 8 July 2022 and argues that the current legal framework and practice in Türkiye largely do not meet the Convention standards. According to the non-governmental organisations and bar associations, the Turkish government does not effectively address the ECtHR’s findings in the Oya Ataman group judgments and the requests of the Committee of Ministers as part of its judgment execution supervision process, and it generally does not take necessary measures to strengthen the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. They further reiterate that the systematic prevention of the exercise of this fundamental right in Türkiye is seriously deteriorating. Considering the essential role freedom of peaceful assembly plays in the protection of democracy and pluralism, the Committee of Ministers should urgently adopt a strong and resolute approach in its supervision of the execution of the Court’s judgments in the Oya Ataman group, especially in the wake of the upcoming Presidential elections in mid-2023.
After providing a comprehensive picture -supported by evidence and examples- that the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is essentially impossible in Türkiye due to the systematic interventions in the right by the Turkish authorities, the non-governmental organizations and bar associations invite the Committee of Ministers to ensure following its 7-9 March 2023 meetings that the Oya Ataman group cases remain under the enhanced procedure and are reviewed regularly in the Committee’s quarterly Human Rights meetings and call on Türkiye to take the following general measures:
- Review its the Action Plan and fully address the structural problems identified by the ECtHR in the Oya Ataman group and stemming from domestic legislation;
- Amend Law No. 2911 to ensure that its provisions are fully in line with the principles set out in the case law of the ECtHR;
- Amend Law No. 5442 to ensure that its provisions are fully in line with the principles set out in the case law of the ECtHR; in particular, amend Article 11(C) which grants broad powers to governors to ban both peaceful public assemblies and indoor human rights events,
- Review the 2016 Directive on the use of tear gas and other crowd control weapons to ensure that it complies in all respects with international standards in relation to the use of crowd control weapons and to make use of the international expertise which could be made available through the Council of Europe;
- Urge Türkiye to put in place an effective ex post facto review mechanism to assess the reasonableness and proportionality of any use of excessive force by law enforcement officials;
- Call on Türkiye to stop the criminalization of the members of civil society who exercise their right to freedom of peaceful assembly;
- Call on Türkiye to pursue a clear and detailed strategy to prevent violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly;
- Urge Türkiye to carry out an effective overview of the in-service training programmes for law enforcement officials on human rights, proportionate use of force, intervention against public events, and use of tear gas;
- Request Türkiye to provide detailed information on administrative bans imposed on assemblies and demonstrations (including information on the locations, the authorities who ordered, dates, their scope and durations), on interventions by law enforcement officers to disperse demonstrations and meetings, and on assemblies and demonstrations that were allowed to take place without police intervention although they failed to comply with the requirements of the Law No. 2911, as well as the number of criminal and administrative prosecutions and convictions linked to breaches of Law No. 2911;
- Request Türkiye to provide detailed information on the criminal investigations and proceedings initiated against law enforcement officers accused of using excessive force to disperse meetings and demonstrations (including information on the numbers of prosecutions, convictions, and acquittals, the type of offences and sentences).
Non-governmental organizations and bar associations that made the joint submission include several members of the Solidarity Network for Human Rights and are as follows:
Association for Freedom of Expression (İfade Özgürlüğü Derneği), Association of Lawyers for Liberty/Istanbul Branch (Özgürlük İçin Hukukçular Derneği İstanbul Şubesi), Batman Bar Association (Batman Barosu), Bingöl Bar Association (Bingöl Barosu), Civic Space Studies Association (Sivil Alan Araştırmaları Derneği), Civil Rights Defenders, Dersim Bar Association (Dersim Barosu), European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights, Foundation for Society and Legal Studies (Toplum ve Hukuk Araştırmaları Vakfı), Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye İnsan Hakları Vakfı), Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Düşünce Suçuna Karşı Girişim), International Federation For Human Rights, Lambdaistanbul LGBT Solidarity Association (Lambdaistanbul LGBTİ+ Dayanışma Derneği), Kaos GL Association (Kaos GL Derneği), Life Memory and Freedom Association (Yaşam Bellek Özgürlük Derneği), London Legal Group, Mardin Bar Association (Mardin Barosu), Muş Bar Association (Muş Barosu), Progressive Lawyers Association (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği), P24 Independent Journalism Association (P24 Bağımsız Gazetecilik Derneği), Research Institute on Turkey, Roman Memory Studies Association (Roman Hafıza Çalışmaları Derneği/Romani Godi), Social Policies, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (Sosyal Politika, Cinsiyet Kimliği ve Cinsel Yönelim Çalışmaları Derneği), Şırnak Bar Association (Şırnak Barosu), Truth Justice and Memory Center (Hakikat Adalet Hafıza Merkezi), the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, University Queer Research and LGBTI+ Solidarity Association (Üniversiteli Kuir Araştırmaları ve LGBTİ+ Dayanışma Derneği), Van Bar Association (Van Barosu) and Human Rights Joint Platform (İnsan Hakları Ortak Platformu): Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (Eşit Haklar İçin İzleme Derneği), Citizens Association (Yurttaşlık Derneği), Human Rights Agenda Association (İnsan Hakları Gündemi Derneği), Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği), and Rights Initiative Association (Hak İnisiyatifi Derneği)