Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin disclosed the details of the months-long government plan, saying that it aims to decrease the number of cases going to the ECtHR after domestic avenues have been exhausted by forming a commission aimed at reaching a compromise with applicants, the Sabah daily reported on Thursday. Turkey is one of the leading countries with a huge number of cases filed at the ECtHR. There are currently more than 3,000 cases filed against Turkey, a figure expected to rise to 3,500 by September, as Ergin noted in early March. Lengthy pre-trial detentions and longevity of trials constitute two primary complaints in the cases against Turkey, which have pushed the country to seek ways to deal with cases outside of Strasbourg-based court. In March the ECtHR responded positively to the Justice Ministry’s plans to introduce new domestic channels to decrease the number of cases. The first attempt came in December 2011, but the Justice Ministry exchanged views with the ECtHR this March to hammer out the details of the new commission. Ergin underlined that the right of individual application to the Constitutional Court will eventually pave way for a decline in the number of applications filed at the ECtHR. A government-sponsored constitutional reform package approved in a public referendum last year granted, among other things, individuals the right to individually petition the Constitutional Court.
He said the new commission will serve as an effective domestic remedy for dealing with cases and will ease the burden on the Strasbourg-based court. This is also key to removing the negative image of Turkey in Europe, he told the Anatolia news agency.
Those who applied to the ECtHR seeking compensation from Turkish state will be able to apply to the new commission for compensation. According to the draft bill, applications to the commission by Turkish citizens will be concluded within no more than nine months. If the applicants are not satisfied with the decision, they will be able to apply European Administrative Court to review their situation within three months. Ergin said the total period will not exceed one year for applicants to solve their cases either in Turkey or in Europe, in the event of the case not being resolved domestically.
Ergin said that if, following review, the commission’s performance is regarded as an effective domestic remedy and in compliance with the criteria of the ECtHR, then the nearly 3,000 cases at the Strasbourg-based court will be concluded by this commission. This option depends on the performance of the commission. Once the commission is deemed to comply with ECtHR criteria, the European court will freeze its oversight of cases which seek compensation from the Turkish state over long trials and lengthy pre-trial detentions and leave the task to the commission.
The commission will include applications which were filed at ECtHR that accuse Turkish courts of being slow to conclude cases in the fields of administrative law, private law and criminal law, or not finalizing those cases within an appropriate amount of time. Four members of the five-member commission will be selected from judges and prosecutors by the Justice Minister, while the remaining members will be determined by the Finance Minister, Ergin said. The Justice Minister will name the head of the commission, he added.
People would be able to apply to the commission by lodging petitions to public prosecutors, who will send their petitions to the commission. If the applications comply with criteria of the commission and are accepted, then a date will be set for review of the applicant’s situation. Long trials and lengthy pre-trial detentions are the target of harsh criticisms, which cite the human rights issues and a poorly functioning justice system. In Turkey, a case takes around five years on average to conclude, and many cases have been pending for decades. Meantime, Ergin noted that the Justice Ministry made a deal with the Foreign Ministry to employ legal advisors from the Justice Ministry to give legal assistance in embassies abroad, the Sabah daily reported.
According to protocol, legal advisors will be employed in Turkish embassies and consulates in France, Germany, the UK and the US, where a sizable Turkish population live. Ergin said legal advisors will not only give legal assistance to Turkish citizens abroad but will also closely observe legal developments in those countries and meet the demands of the Justice Ministry.