It was noted during the event that the fact that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments regarding the Xanthi Turkish Union which was closed, and the Cultural Association of Turkish Women of the Rodopi Province and the Evros Prefecture Minority Youth Association which were not registered by the national courts, have not been executed by Greece for more than 13 years contradicted the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
The Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF), with the support of the member of the European Parliament (EP) François Alfonsi (Greens/EFA) organised a webinar entitled “The Long-Standing Problem of Non-Execution of ECtHR’s Judgments by Greece: The Bekir Ousta and Others Group of Cases” on 2 June 2021.
The webinar began with the opening remarks of ABTTF President Halit Habip Oğlu. Habip Oğlu stated that Greece is a country that has gained a place in the history of the world as the “cradle of democracy” but has not reconciled with multiculturalism, adding that Greece must now take the final concrete step in executing the ECtHR judgments concerning the three associations of the Turkish community in Western Thrace in the Bekir-Ousta and Others group of cases.
MEP François Alfonsi, Legal Counsel of Bekir Ousta and Others Group of Cases and Doctoral Researcher at the Human Rights Centre of Ghent University Ilker Tsavousoglou and Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) Spokesperson and Board Member of European Implementation Network (EIN) Panayote Dimitras were present as panellists at the panel session which was moderated by ABTTF International Affairs Director Melek Kırmacı Arık.
Alfonsi noted that Greece, which has not executed ECtHR judgments regarding the associations of the Turkish community in Western Thrace, rejects the existence of a historic minority of the European Union (EU), saying this is intolerable for all democrats and minorities in Europe. Underlining that Greece denies European democracy by acting in this way, Alfonsi said that not what constitutes a problem is not merely Greece’s stance, but also those who do not impose any sanctions by allowing this behaviour. Alfonsi noted that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will have a new decision pertaining to the Bekir-Ousta and Others group of cases in a few days, adding that members of the Turkish community in Western Thrace are EU citizens and that their rights should be fully respected in this context.
Tsavousoglou stated that the ECtHR has ruled that Greece violated Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of association in cases involving Western Thrace Turkish associations which have been closed or not allowed to be established on the grounds that their names include the word “Turkish”, adding that the Court considers that the decisions have not been executed for 13 years and that it violates basic democratic values. Tsavousoglou underlined that the acceptance of the existence of the ethnic Turkish minority in Greece is a political taboo, but that compliance with the ECtHR judgments is not optional, and that the failure to execute the ECtHR judgments regarding the Bekir-Ousta and Others group of cases fully and effectively would be a lost opportunity for the European Human Rights system to reiterate its commitments to protect minorities.
Dimitras stressed that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe should take urgent measures in order that the ECtHR judgments concerning the Western Thrace Turkish associations in the Bekir-Ousta and Others group of cases are executed, saying that following the interim decision a decade ago, a similar decision could not happen again, and that it was time to introduce the Infringement Procedure against Greece. Dimitras said that due to the failure in the execution of the ECtHR judgments, the national courts cannot be blamed, adding that the Greek government can change the existing law if it really wants to, and then the said associations can be registered and/or re-registered by national courts.
The panel ended with a Q&A session and closing remarks by the panellists.
You can watch a recording of the event on Zoom in English and Greek on ABTTF’s YouTube channel and Facebook page:
English video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yxvE751olU&t=196s
Greek video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3ZepEik_vc&t=13s
English video on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/939989616164959/videos/959003728180523
Greek video on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/939989616164959/videos/145830780930058