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Challenges to Turkey’s Council of Europe Membership: Defending Human Rights and the Rule of Law

As Rights Defenders, we have deep concern regarding recent developments that question Turkey’s continued membership in the Council of Europe. As a member of this esteemed organization for the past 73 years, Turkey has committed to safeguarding fundamental human rights on European soil, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Yuksel Yalcinkaya raises significant alarm. The court concluded that Yalcinkaya’s conviction, based primarily on his use of the messaging app Bylock, constituted “systemic violations” of the right to a fair trial. The ECtHR’s verdict highlights serious concerns about the judicial process and the indiscriminate identification of potential coup-plotters solely based on their association with this app.

It is distressing to learn that approximately 8,500 similar complaints have been lodged with the ECtHR against convictions in Turkey, with up to 100,000 individuals identified as Bylock users by the Turkish authorities. The ECtHR has ordered Turkey to undertake measures to rectify these violations. It is imperative that the Turkish government respects and abides by this decision, ensuring a fair and just legal system that upholds the principles of the European Convention.

The findings of systemic problems and the violations of Articles 7, 6 § 1, and 11 of the Convention demand immediate action. In particular, the violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Yuksel Yalcinkaya is deeply concerning. The European Court of Human Rights’ judgment clearly highlights the systemic nature of the problems that led to this violation. It is crucial for the Turkish government to take immediate action to rectify these issues and ensure that individuals are not subjected to punishments that are not clearly defined by law. Upholding the principles of legality and protecting individuals from arbitrary or retrospective application of laws is essential in maintaining the integrity of the justice system and safeguarding the fundamental rights of all Turkish citizens.

We call upon the Turkish government to take the necessary general measures to address these systemic issues. Upholding the rule of law, protecting the right to a fair trial, and respecting freedom of assembly and association are paramount to preserving the democratic principles upon which Turkey’s membership in the Council of Europe was founded.

As advocates for human rights and defenders of freedom, we  RIGHTS DEFENDERS stand in solidarity with the victims of these violations. We condemn any infringement on fundamental rights and express our unwavering support for those affected by these unjust convictions. It is through collective efforts that we can ensure the protection of human rights and promote a just society.

We urgently appeal to the Turkish government to address these concerns and take immediate action in line with the ECtHR’s judgment. By doing so, Turkey can reaffirm its commitment to upholding human rights standards and maintain its standing as a valued member of the Council of Europe.