February 16, 2018
Europe’s top human rights court will be flooded with claims from Turkey unless the country’s judiciary steps up to protect the rule of law, a top European diplomat warned on Friday.
Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Council of Europe, travelled to Ankara to urge judges and prosecutors to stand up for fundamental freedoms following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown on dissent.
Mr Jagland encouraged the Turkish judiciary to “hold firm” to the principles of democracy and warned that failure to do so would cast Turkey’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights into doubt. “Overloading the court will only raise the question of Turkey’s capacity or willingness to uphold the convention,” he said. “This simply will not work.”
The warning from Europe’s human rights watchdog underlines the concern in western capitals over the rule of law in Turkey under the leadership of Mr Erdogan. Although the Council of Europe is separate from the EU, its work is followed closely by EU member states.
Turkey is a member of the council and, in principle, must abide by decisions made by its most important body, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. But the fallout from the attempted coup of July 2016 has threatened to put Turkey and the court on a collision course.
Mr Jagland’s visit came just weeks after Turkey was plunged into a judicial crisis when an order by the country’s top court was overruled by a series of less senior judges.