In a pivotal moment for human rights, an eminent panel, featuring Prof. Johan Vande Lanotte, Hakan Kaplankaya, former judge Yavuz Aydın, and moderated by Dr. Emre Turkut, gathered to analyze the landmark judgment in Yalçınkaya vs. Turkey, delivered by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
Background of the Case
The case is about the conviction of Mr. Yalçınkaya, a former teacher, for membership in an armed terrorist organization, over his ties with the Gülen movement. The decisive evidence for Mr. Yalçınkaya’s conviction was his use of the encrypted messaging application “ByLock,” alleged to be designed exclusively for members of the Gülen movement which has been proscribed by the Turkish government. The case brought attention to the Turkish judiciary’s approach to ByLock evidence, which the ECHR deemed departed from national law and Article 7 of the Convention, providing safeguards against arbitrary prosecution.
Systemic Human Rights Violations and Procedural Shortcomings
Yavuz Aydın illuminated the widespread human rights issues in Turkey, emphasizing the lack of judicial independence. He highlighted the systemic nature of the problems, stating, “Turkey faces systemic and widespread human rights issues, particularly focusing on the lack of judicial independence.”
The ECHR identified procedural shortcomings in the criminal proceedings against Mr. Yalçınkaya, notably regarding his access to and ability to effectively challenge the ByLock evidence, breaching his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the Convention.
Use of Digital Evidence Under Scrutiny
Prof. Johan Vande Lanotte criticized the utilization of digital evidence like ByLock to label individuals as terrorists, underscoring, “The use of association and digital evidence to label individuals as terrorists is a critical concern. Suspects must be confronted with the whole dataset of digital evidence.”
ECHR’s Evolving Stance and International Pressure
Hakan Kaplankaya noted a positive shift in the ECHR’s approach with the Yalçınkaya case, addressing the root causes of human rights violations. Both Kaplankaya and Vande Lanotte expressed skepticism about the Turkish government’s willingness to implement the judgment and stressed the need for international pressure to ensure compliance.
Amnesty, Domestic Legal Avenues, and General Measures
Kaplankaya outlined the domestic legal avenues and discussed the limitations of amnesty as a solution, suggesting it be formulated as an apology. Contrarily, Vande Lanotte emphasized the obligation to abide by the European Court’s decision. Given the systemic nature of the identified issues, the Court held that Turkey must take appropriate general measures to address these problems, particularly regarding the approach to ByLock evidence.
“Individuals, even those without the so-called evidence used by Turkish courts, can resort to remedies and ask for retrial or equity based on Article 7 violation.”
Yavuz Aydın, former judge
Ongoing Cases and Collective Responsibility
The judgment brings to light approximately 8,500 similar applications on the Court’s docket and highlights the potential for many more, given around 100,000 identified ByLock users. Dr. Emre Turkut underscored the collective responsibility of stakeholders, including NGOs and the international community, in the implementation process, stating, “The collective responsibility of all stakeholders is vital in contributing to the implementation process.”
Future Prospects and Turning Point for Human Rights
Prof. Johan Vande Lanotte concluded, “The judgment is the beginning of something and not the end. It’s crucial to have follow-up and collaboration with as many independent organizations as possible.” Dr. Emre Turkut expressed hope that the Yalçınkaya case would be a reference point in legal and political circles in Turkey and beyond, marking it as a potential turning point for human rights in the country.
“The collective responsibility of all stakeholders, including NGOs and the international community, is vital in contributing to the implementation process.”
“The Yalçınkaya case marks a potential turning point and will hopefully be extensively referenced in legal and political circles in Turkey and beyond.” – Dr. Emre Turkut
This assembly of experts discussed the Yalçınkaya vs. Turkey judgment, shedding light on systemic human rights issues, challenges of digital evidence, and the implications of such a landmark ruling. The discussion culminated with hopes that this judgment would serve as a cornerstone for human rights advancements in Turkey and set precedence for addressing similar cases globally.
“The use of association and digital evidence, such as ByLock, to label individuals as terrorists is a critical concern. Suspects must be confronted with the whole dataset of digital evidence.”
“Amnesty as a solution has its limitations. It could drop the consequences of convictions but won’t address all legal and political problems.”
“The judgment is the beginning of something and not the end. It’s crucial to have follow-up and collaboration with as many independent organizations as possible to address the systemic issues raised by the case.” Prof. Johan Vande Lanotte
“There’s a positive shift in the Court’s approach with the Yalçınkaya case, addressing the root causes of human rights violations in Turkey.”
“If amnesty is considered, it should be formulated in a way that could be interpreted as an apology from the government.”
“Individuals with finalized convictions should use the remedy of retrial, despite the uncertainties in the legislation. The systemic breach highlighted in the judgment is significant.” – Hakan Kaplankaya, lawyer.
Categories: Turkey Human Rights Blog