ECtHR commission to be discussed in Parliament

March 05, 2012, Monday/ 16:10:00

A commission to be set up by the government to deal with cases filed in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be discussed in Parliament, a move that aims to lay the legal foundation for the commission.

Turkey is one of the leading countries against which cases are filed at the ECtHR. In an attempt to reduce the number of cases, which stands at about 3,000 at the moment, the country has offered to establish a temporary commission that will deal with long detention and trial periods in Turkey, as most cases filed at the ECtHR from Turkey are related to these two issues. Bureaucrats and experts from Turkey's Ministry of Justice and officials from the ECtHR are reportedly continuing to negotiate over how the commission will function. The negotiations are expected to conclude on March 15. A proposal regarding the commission will be added to the third judicial reform package.

As part of the discussions concerning the third reform package, Parliament will make some issues surrounding the commission clear, including who will be its members and how it will function. The date of the parliamentary session when the reform package will be discussed has yet to be determined.

Until individuals can apply to the Constitutional Court, beginning in Sept. 23, 2012, the number of cases from Turkey in the ECtHR is expected to exceed 3,500. A government-sponsored constitutional reform package, which was approved in a public referendum last year, granted, among other things, individuals the right to individually petition the Constitutional Court.

Earlier this month, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin discussed the commission, saying, “The right to individually petition the Constitutional Court will eventually cause a drop in the number of applications filed at the ECtHR, but until that time, the commission will serve as an effective domestic remedy.”

Similar commissions were formerly established in Turkey to settle cases outside the court system. Parliament passed a law in 2004 to compensate victims of terrorism through a commission that consisted of experts and lawyers.

In Turkey, a case takes around five years on average to conclude, and many cases have been pending for decades. This situation creates many problems with regard to human rights, especially if a suspect is eventually found innocent after a long period under arrest. In Turkey, only after the approval of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which combines the functions of a court of cassation and an appeals court, can an individual under arrest actually be convicted.

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