Top European courts rule on human rights cases in Turkey

ECtHR ruled that, even in cases where national security had to be considered, the principles of lawfulness and the rule of law should be applied when taking measures that affect an individual’s fundamental rights. (Shutterstock)
ECtHR ruled that, even in cases where national security had to be considered, the principles of lawfulness and the rule of law should be applied when taking measures that affect an individual’s fundamental rights. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 16 December 2020

Top European courts rule on human rights cases in Turkey

Top European courts rule on human rights cases in Turkey
  • Detention of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas is widely considered by rights groups to be a politically motivated prosecution

ANKARA: The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) put rights violation cases in Turkey under the spotlight this month with several rulings on its agenda.

On Dec. 15, the European top court ruled that the Turkish government violated the rights of an employee who was dismissed by a state of emergency decree.

The court said that Turkey violated the employee’s right to a fair trial and right to respect for his private and family life after he was sacked from his post at the public administration over claims of his links to terror groups.

ECtHR ruled that, even in cases where national security had to be considered, the principles of lawfulness and the rule of law should be applied when taking measures that affect an individual’s fundamental rights.

The court sentenced Turkey to pay €4,000 ($4,875) to Hamit Piskin, the applicant, in violation of articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that Turkey is signed up to as a contracting party.

According to Ayse Bingol Demir, a human rights lawyer and co-director of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, the Piskin case concerns the serious human rights violations of Turkey in the course of the state of emergency declared following the July 2016 coup attempt.

“More than four years on, we are starting to hear the voice of the court on the question of the compatibility of the government’s actions with the European Convention on Human Rights,” she told Arab News.

However, Demir added, whether the court’s reaction was strong enough was a matter for consideration.

“Although the court found violations of Article 6 and 8 of the convention in this case, there are several aspects of the court’s interpretations that are problematic, and this might prevent this judgment being a strong basis for those who have been impacted by the emergency decrees in their quests to obtain remedy for the violations they have endured,” she said.

In the meantime, ECtHR will deliver a Grand Chamber judgment in the case of imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas v. Turkey on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

The Demirtas case is widely considered by human rights groups to be a politically motivated prosecution.

The case is about the arrest and pre-trial detention of Demirtas, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s left-wing, pro-Kurdish and second-largest opposition party.

Demirtas challenged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the 2014 and 2018 presidential elections, attracting 9.76 percent and 8.32 percent of the vote respectively from almost every part of society.

He was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, in the middle of the night, over his alleged incitement of the violent street demonstrations across Turkey’s southeastern provinces in October 2014 after Daesh attacked the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. The protests in Turkey caused the death of 50 people and hundreds were injured.

The detention of the deputies was made possible at the time following a controversial constitutional amendment and parliamentary vote in May 2016 that ensured the lifting of their parliamentary immunity.

The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, a European body that advises on constitutional matters, at the time harshly criticized the decision to lift parliamentary immunity, with the risk it carries for damaging democratic institutions in the country.

“Demirtas is one of the most prominent figures in the political scene in Turkey and has been unlawfully kept behind bars for over four years. The interference in the judicial proceedings against him, if not full control of them, by the executive has been so clear,” lawyer Demir said.

Demirtas, who has been imprisoned for four years and two months, lodged his application with the European Court four years ago after having exhausted all domestic remedies.

Previously, lawyers for Demirtas strongly criticized several aspects of the ECtHR Second Section’s earlier judgment in November 2018.

“The Grand Chamber will hopefully agree with their arguments and will properly address, recognize and duly criticize the seriousness of the issue of detention of political opponents and others for political purposes in Turkey,” Demir said.

International groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Article 19, assert that there is no material evidence about the connection of Demirtas to the Kobani protests, saying that the prosecution is only based on his public speeches and political activities as a leader of a political party at the time.

“This case was given priority, the court states. National judicial authorities detain individuals without a ground in 15 minutes. Then it takes ages to undo this decision before the ECtHR, even in the case of a prominent politician. Isn’t it the time to really reform the ECtHR?,” said Kerem Altiparmak, a human rights’ lawyer.

Rights advocacy groups also asked the Turkish government to review the detentions of other former HDP deputies, including the female co-chair of the party, Figen Yuksekdag, but the European Court of Human Rights has not ruled yet on these cases.

“The Turkish government has misused detention and criminal proceedings in a campaign of persecution against Demirtas in particular, including by flouting a European Court of Human Rights’ order to release him and concocting new baseless charges to keep him behind bars,” Human Rights Watch said in a press statement on Nov. 19.

However, Turkish rulers appear determined to keep Demirtas and the other HDP deputies behind bars, blaming them for terror acts in the country.

“Supporters of terrorism cannot be rewarded,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month, indicating his personal objection to releasing Demirtas.

In September, Erdogan also criticized HDP and its jailed ex-leader: “They have penetrated into the parliament. This nation does not and will not forget those who called the people into the streets and then in Diyarbakir had 53 of our children killed. We will follow this business to the end. We won’t release them.”
 


Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
Updated 17 min 27 sec ago

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
  • Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule

DUBAI: The Philippines and Egypt were the latest inclusion in Oman’s list where travelers from the said countries are banned from entering the Sultanate.

The decision was issued by the Supreme Committee, which takes lead in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and took effect on Friday, May 7.

Travelers from Egypt and the Philippines, and those who transited in any of the said countries during the 14 days, are particularly affected by the travel restriction a report from Times of Oman said.

Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule but are subject to the procedures adopted upon entering the Sultanate, the report added.

Oman earlier added India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the travel ban list, joining Sudan, Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom where their residents have been barred from entering since February 24.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 53 min 6 sec ago

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.


US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
Updated 43 min 11 sec ago

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
  • US State Department: Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations"

WASHINGTON: The United States called Friday for de-escalation in annexed east Jerusalem, and warned against carrying out a threatened eviction of Palestinian families that has sent tensions soaring.
"The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem... which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people," a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan."
He said Washington was calling on Israeli and Palestinian officials to "act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence."
And he warned it was "critical" to avoid any steps that could worsen the situation — such as "evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism."
An earlier State Department statement said Washington was concerned in particular about the "potential eviction of Palestinian families in Silwan neighborhood and Sheikh Jarrah," two areas of east Jerusalem where tensions have been running high.
It noted that some Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations."
The comments came as more than 160 people were wounded after Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound late Friday, capping a week of violence in the Holy City and the occupied West Bank.
Earlier Friday, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, police said.
The unrest came on Al-Quds Day — named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem — an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel.
The nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel "not a country, but a terrorist base," and in a televised speech said that fighting the Jewish state was "everyone's duty."


Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
Somali opposition soldiers pose for a photograph in Mogadishu as they move to their barracks after reaching an agreement with the prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2021

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
  • Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three

MOGADISHU: Opposition fighters withdrew from the Somali capital on Friday, ending a tense standoff with pro-government troops after a dispute over delayed elections triggered the country’s worst political violence in years.
Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.
Under a deal reached by the warring sides this week, opposition troops began leaving their positions in the capital, and key roads sealed off with sandbags and machine guns were opened once more.
“We are sending our forces back to the frontline position to defend the country and its people,” said Mahad Salad, an opposition lawmaker, at a camp outside Mogadishu where troops assembled after pulling out of the city.
Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule.
But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.
Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three.
The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.
Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohammed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks.
“These forces came to the rescue of the people, and have taught a new lesson which will be remembered in future. They refused a dictatorship, and have forced the democratic governance process to continue,” opposition lawmaker Salad said.

FASTFACT

Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.

Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.
But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms.
Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.
In early May, Mohammed relaunched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.
Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote.
The international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon, and warned the political infighting distracted from the fight against Al-Shabab, the militants who control swathes of countryside.
Maj.-Gen. Ali Araye Osoble told opposition troops outside the capital that it was time to return to duty.
“I order that you return to your positions and fulfil your commitments in the fight against Al-Shabab,” the opposition commander said.


Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
People wearing protective face masks walk in Tunis, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Tunisia, April 29, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 May 2021

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
  • Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed

TUNIS: Tunisia ordered a partial lockdown from Sunday for the week-long Eid Al-Fitr holidays, warning that any further increase in coronavirus infections could overwhelm specialist care facilities.
Announcing the measure on Friday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said Tunisia was going through “the worst health crisis in its history.”
Mosques, markets and nonessential businesses will be closed under the new restrictions, which come as Muslims mark the end of the month of Ramadan, said Mechichi.
“Health institutions are at risk of collapse,” Mechichi said, adding that medics were stretched to the limit, with around 100 people a day dying of COVID-19.
More than 500 people are currently in intensive care, an unprecedented number that has required medics to set up field hospitals, and the North African country is struggling to meet the demand for oxygen.
Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed.
Tunisians are encouraged to leave their homes only for what is strictly necessary, government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Slimane said.
The Mediterranean country, with a population of around 12 million, has recorded more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 11,200 deaths.
Tunisia’s economy has lurched from one crisis to another since the country’s 2011 revolution, with GDP estimated to have contracted by a record 8.2 percent last year.
Mechichi had said several times in recent weeks that Tunisia is unable to afford to repeat the restrictions put in place in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.