Speaking at a press conference held in the headquarters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Friday, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin noted that most cases filed at the ECtHR from Turkey are related to long detention and trial periods in the country. “Now, there are nearly 3,000 cases filed in that court in relation to long detention and trial periods in Turkey, and this number will exceed 3,500 by Sept. 23, 2012, at which time individuals can apply to the Constitutional Court. The right of individual application to the Constitutional Court will eventually cause a drop in the number of applications filed to the ECtHR, but until that time, the commission will serve as an effective domestic remedy. We have reached a consensus with the ECtHR to set up a commission that will deal with these cases.”
Noting that after the ECtHR urged Turkey to set up an independent commission to settle cases outside the court system, the Parliament in 2004 passed a law to compensate terrorism victims through a commission that consisted of experts and lawyers, Ergin said the previous commission will serve as an example for the establishment of a new commission for cases related to long detention and trial periods in Turkey.
He noted that the ECtHR will set a new schedule to establish the commission within 20 days and send a pilot file to Turkey. If the ECtHR finds the commission set up by the Turkish government to be effective and the compensation reasonable, it will turn over all cases filed at the ECtHR from Turkey that are related to long detention and trial periods to the commission.
In Turkey, a case can take around five years on average, 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 the inmate under arrest actually be convicted. Contrary to regulations in most European countries, in Turkey during the period between the local court’s verdict being issued and the approval of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the defendant is also under arrest. The judiciary has come under fire from both the opposition and the West as the trials of jailed coup suspects has taken years.
As of early 2011, there were approximately 57,000 inmates in prisons awaiting verdicts or approval from the Supreme Court of Appeals. Among the suspects who are under arrest are deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).