|Court declares Turkish State violation of Kurdish Member of Parliament's freedom of expression|
IBRAHIM AKSOY v TURKEY (FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION)
In its judgement handed down earlier today, the European Court of Human Rights has once again found the Turkish State in violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights after ruling that the State had repeatedly violated the free speech of Ibrahim Aksoy, a Kurdish Parliament member from the former Pro-Kurdish political party HEP (People's Labour Party), throughout the early 1990s.
The Aksoy case was submitted to the Court on behalf of applicant Ibrahim Aksoy by the Kurdish Human Rights Project in 1995 and concerns the repeated harassment of the applicant, a Kurdish writer and former HEP (People's Labour Party) Member of Parliament, and violations of his right to free expression.
Ibrahim Aksoy was convicted three times by the Turkish State for allegedly "disseminating separatist propaganda" in speeches and publications. The Court, in its judgement, examined each of the convictions separately and in each of the three instances, determined that Turkey had violated Ibrahim Aksoy's right to free expression.
The first conviction arose out of a May 1991 speech Mr. Aksoy made during the HEP regional congress. The Court observed that in his speech, Ibrahim Aksoy was acting in his capacity as secretary general of HEP and as a Member of Parliament and had merely sought to explain the general principles of the action which his political party was taking. In particular, Aksoy had maintained that the Government had consistently denied the existence of a people and that a Kurdish problem existed and a solution to it would help to restore democracy in Turkey. He also added that HEP, as a party of oppressed groups, was consequently the party of the Kurds who constituted the most oppressed group within Turkish society. Describing Aksoy as a "political figure and actor on the Turkish political stage", the European Court determined that his speech, made at an authorised congress, did not constitute an incitement to violence or armed resistance and was not racist in content (contrary to the Government's argument). Rather, the Court concluded that the speech was merely an appeal for recognition for the rights of a people.
Aksoy's second conviction stemmed from his January 1993 article entitled "Somalia - Bosnia - Kurdistan" published in the weekly publication Azadi which the Government deemed to contain "separatist propaganda". In this article Aksoy had sought to explain the reasons for the United Nations' intervention in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, while raising the issue of a remedy in Turkish Kurdistan. On the basis of data supplied by the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Statistics, Mr. Aksoy stated his feeling that an intervention similar to those in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina was necessary in Kurdistan in part because of the high infant mortality rate caused by lack of medicines and malnutrition. In its judgement, the Court declared that Mr. Aksoy had written the article as a political figure and that far from trying to incite violence, Aksoy had, on the contrary, assumed a crucial role of alerting public opinion to facts that were supported by data supplied by independent and public bodies
Aksoy's final conviction was made in regard to his 1994 leaflet entitled: "The solution for a new Turkey: the new policies for democratic change and the movement of the party for new democratic change". The Court noted that the leaflet constituted a model programme for the new political party presided over by Mr. Aksoy and sought the public's assistance to identify Turkey's economic, political, social and cultural problems. The leaflet also included a proposal for the recognition of ethnic groups to govern themselves in order to build a "pluralist and participatory regime" and to restore democracy. In its judgment, the Court noted that democracy offers the possibility of resolving a country's problems through dialogue, without recourse to violence - even when this dialogue might be seen as irksome. In its strong disagreement with the Turkish State's view of Aksoy as a separatist, the Court noted the Kurdish writer's obvious commitment to peaceful, democratic solutions, stating in its judgment: "Democracy thrive[s] on freedom of expression….[and] it was notable that the author [Aksoy] had…stressed the need to carry out [his] proposed political programme in accordance with democratic rules and in a peaceful and equitable manner."
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. The Kurdish Human Rights Project works for the promotion and protection of human rights within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and the former Soviet Union.
2. The application was made by the Kurdish Human Rights Project on behalf of Ibrahim Aksoy.
3. The Court, in a judgement handed down on Tuesday, 10 October 2000, found Turkey to be in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
4. Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) the Court awarded Ibrahim Aksoy a total of 57,639 German marks in damages and legal costs.5. The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. On 1 November 1998 a full-time Court was established, replacing the original two-tier system of a part-time Commission and Court