Following his visit to Turkey from 10 to 14 October 2011, Thomas Hammarberg Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe prepared a report on Turkey and the judiciary.
Administration of justice and protection of human rights in Turkey
Strasbourg January 10, 2011
"The Commissioner welcomes important progress made in combating impunity for serious human rights violations, in particular in connection with torture and ill-treatment, but considers that problems remain, some of which have been demonstrated in the investigations into the murder of the writer and journalist Hrant Dink. The need to obtain prior administrative authorisation for investigating cases not relating to torture, short prescription periods, and lack of statistics concerning the fight against impunity are the main factors of concern. The Commissioner is also concerned about disproportionately lenient sentences handed down in certain cases, for example those involving violence against LGBT persons.
Commissioner Hammarberg urges the authorities to improve the standing of victims in criminal investigations and proceedings. He encourages the establishment of an effective police complaints mechanism and the mandatory recording of all interrogations.
He further expresses his concern about the way certain offences relating to terrorism and membership of a criminal organisation are defined in the Turkish legislation, leaving room for a very wide interpretation by courts. “Terrorism poses enormous challenges and difficulties, but it should be fought while fully respecting human rights. Prosecutors and judges need to be further sensitised to the case-law of the ECtHR concerning in particular the distinction between terrorist acts and acts falling under the scope of the rights to freedom of thought, expression, association and assembly”.
The Commissioner stresses the importance of guaranteeing a fair trial by ensuring adversarial proceedings and equality of arms at all stages of the criminal procedure. He points to a number of shortcomings in this respect, including rules concerning the suspects’ access to evidence against them, as well as practical problems limiting the capacity of the defence to cross-examine and summon witnesses and experts. He also voices concerns about the use of secret witnesses and suggests a more effective judicial scrutiny when authorising ‘protective measures’, such as wire-tapping."
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