We are in front of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Over two thousand protesters from different countries around the world, mostly from Europe, gathered to protest against the silence of the court regarding human rights violations in Turkey, and they reiterated their demand for “Justice delayed is justice denied!” Last year, on June 24, nearly two thousand people affected by the emergency decrees (KHK) gathered in the same place and demanded “justice” from the ECHR.
The difference between this year’s protest and the previous year was a surprise decision by the ECHR that was announced just minutes before the demonstration. The decision regarding Hidayet Karaca, the former CEO of Samanyolu TV, came as a surprise and brought morale to the majority of the crowd. The court found the arrest and detention of Hidayet Karaca, who was arrested on December 14, 2014, and has been imprisoned for over 8.5 years, to be unlawful.
After being arrested, Hidayet Karaca’s lawyers waited for 8 years for a decision from the ECHR after submitting their application on May 7, 2015. That’s exactly what the crowd gathered in front of the ECHR wanted to emphasize. Why did the ECHR wait for 8 years and 1 month? The decision does not provide an answer to why the ECHR, which usually prioritizes cases of detainees, delayed Hidayet Karaca’s case for 8.5 years. However, similar applications made by Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan were decided within about a year, and a violation decision was announced on March 20, 2018.
In the following period, instead of swiftly issuing decisions and preventing the injustice caused by wrongful arrests, the ECHR turned a deaf ear to the rising cries for justice and chose to remain inactive, with only a few exceptions where it ruled violations. The majority of individuals for whom the ECHR ruled violations were able to be released from prison not because of the ECHR’s decisions but because they had served their full sentences. Nevertheless, many journalists, such as Mehmet Baransu and Mustafa Ünal, are still awaiting justice in prison.
So, why was Hidayet Karaca arrested?
On December 14, 2014, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office issued arrest warrants for 32 individuals, including police officers and journalists, on the grounds of allegedly plotting against the Tahşiyeciler group. Later on, it became evident that this operation was more of a revenge operation than a criminal investigation, coinciding with the first anniversary of the December 17/25 Corruption and Bribery Scandal.
This operation was fabricated to substantiate the statement of then Prime Minister Recep T. Erdoğan, who declared, “I can declare a prosecutor and three police officers as members of a terrorist organization for the Gülen Movement.” The team, consisting of Erdoğan’s lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal, public prosecutors Hasan Yılmaz and Fuzuli Aydoğdu, and judge Bekir Altun, arrested and imprisoned Hidayet Karaca and some police officers. The release orders issued by the Istanbul 29th and 32nd Criminal Courts on April 25, 2015, were not implemented, and the judges who issued those orders, Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer, were also arrested and are still in prison. On November 3, 2017, through a staged trial, Hidayet Karaca was sentenced to 31 years and 6 months in prison.
The importance of the ECHR decision lies in the fact that this trial against Hidayet Karaca has been determined to be an arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention by an international court. The ruling means that the Turkish judiciary’s decision and implementation, including the unjust trials and the continuation of detention, were found to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
As we have emphasized before, the ECHR has once again verified the unlawfulness of the trials carried out in the name of law in Turkey. However, this verification does not eliminate the fact that Turkey, as a member state of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, is continuously violating human rights in its practices and judicial decisions.
The crowd gathered in front of the ECHR on June 24, 2023, demanded the ECHR to swiftly decide on all the applications submitted and not to keep them waiting for years, causing further injustice. They want the ECHR to demonstrate that it will fulfill its responsibilities and duties regarding human rights.
As the crowd shouted “Justice delayed is justice denied,” they underlined the need for the ECHR to be a “speedy court” and emphasized that the court’s sluggishness caused great harm, extending the suffering of individuals unjustly detained in Turkey.
This demonstration was another reminder to the ECHR that it must act swiftly in order to prevent further violations of human rights in Turkey. The ECHR’s reputation and credibility are at stake, and it must prove to the world that it can act promptly and justly. The crowd gathered in front of the ECHR believes that justice delayed is indeed justice denied, and it is time for the ECHR to act accordingly.
Mehmet Tahsin is a journalist and columnist at TR724.com