ABTTF President: ‘The truth is that the rulers of our country and the judiciary do not want to implement the ECtHR judgments. Indeed, when the ECtHR judgments were implemented, our country would not be able to further deny the existence of the Turkish community’.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe examined the Bekir-Ousta group of cases concerning associations belonging to the Turkish community in Western Thrace at its meeting held on 1-3 September 2020. As a result of the examination, which failed to take place in June due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Committee of Ministers harshly criticized that although there have been amendments made to the Code of Civil Procedure in 2017, requests for the re-opening of the cases in the ‘Bekir-Ousta and others’ group which include the Xanthi Turkish Union (İTB), the Cultural Association of the Turkish Women of Rodopi and Evros Minority Youth Association have not been paved and that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have not been implemented for the last 12 years.
The Committee of Ministers which criticized the judgement of the Court of Appeals of Thrace to reject, once again, the request of the Cultural Association of the Turkish Women of Rodopi and Evros Minority Youth Association in its judgement of 20 May 2020 on the same grounds as the rejection to the request of the Xanthi Turkish Union in 2018 and indicated that despite the change in law in 2017, the way for the re-opening of the cases has not been paved.
Following the judgement of the Court of Appeals of Thrace, the Committee of Ministers indicated that the hearing before the Court of Cassation in the case of Xanthi Turkish Union, which has been postponed to the 16 October 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, is of critical importance, and called upon the Greek authorities to ensure that the appeal is decided upon promptly and in full and effective compliance of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) on freedom of assembly and association and the Court’s case-law.
Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers urged authorities to take the same action in respect of any proceedings concerning the other two association, namely the Cultural Association of the Turkish Women of Rodopi and Evros Minority Youth Association, should it transpire that they have also sought to appeal to the Court of Cassation.
Recalling that a Contracting State’s obligation under Article 46 of the Convention to fully and effectively comply with the Court’s judgments extends to the interpretation by domestic courts of domestic legislation; the Committee asked Greek authorities to enhance the systematic dissemination of the Court’s judgments and Convention-related training for members of the judiciary.
The committee has requested from Greek authorities to provide the Committee with information on the steps to be taken with a progress report by the end of October 2020.
The Committee of Ministers further asked Greece to inform the Committee about the outcome of the domestic proceedings in the Bekir-Ousta group in order to monitor the outcome of the hearing before the Court of Cassation in the Xanthi Turkish Union’s case and decided to resume examination of these cases in March 2021 at the latest.
Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), made the following statement: “The decision of the Committee of Ministers is very clear! The Committee is very disturbed that the ECtHR judgments have not been implemented for 12 years in the Bekir-Ousta group of cases. This is why it is criticizing Greece in a clear and open manner. Our country’s judiciary, which is expressing that is the legislation which stands as an obstacle to the implementation of the ECtHR judgments, rejects vehemently our associations request for the re-opening of their cases following the amendment in 2017. At this point, the Committee believes that the national courts do not have sufficient knowledge of ECtHR judgments and the case-law. But the truth is that the rulers of our country and the judiciary do not want to implement the judgments. Indeed, when the ECtHR judgments were implemented, our country would not be able to further deny the existence of the Turkish community. Our country is trying to prolong the process as much as possible, but of course one day it will have to accept that fact. Until that day comes, we will continue our struggle both in Strasbourg and in our country”.
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