Research event

The ‘reasonable suspicion’ test of Turkey’s post-coup emergency rule under the European Convention on Human Rights

A presentation by Emre Turkut (Ghent University). This event is part of the Fundamental Rights Research colloquium hosted by the Centre for Fundamental Rights

Since the 15 July 2016 failed coup, Turkey has seen the mass arrests and detention of hundreds of thousands of people. Among them are judges and prosecutors, military personnel, police officers, journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians that have been deprived of their liberty on an array of terrorism-related offences. While this has raised numerous human rights issues, this article focuses in on those relating to pre-trial restrictions imposed upon the right to liberty and security of individuals during Turkey’s post-coup emergency rule. More importantly, it analyses the role of the European Court of Human Rights (‘ECtHR’) in enforcing the guarantees of the right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) in Turkish post-coup cases, namely Mehmet Altan, Sahin Alpay, Alparslan Altan and Osman Kavala. Building on the theory and use of the reasonableness concept in the field of pre-trial detention through a particular focus on the ‘reasonable suspicion’ test under Article 5 § 1 (c) ECHR, the article finds that the ECtHR has taken a strong stance regarding the reasonable suspicion standard of the Turkish post-coup emergency rule. While these decisions give some cause for optimism in the hope for a judicial boldness on the part of the ECtHR in condemning Turkey’s post-coup detention practices, the article argues that there is further scope for the Court to strengthen its protections in this respect. Despite the positive aspects in the Court’s approach, by continuing to support the notion that the Turkish legal landscape is capable of addressing Article 5 violations and not tackling the underlying structural issues so clearly at play, the Court leaves a glaring gap in rights protection for those seeking justice in Turkey. This remains the clear elephant in the room in the wake of the Turkish post-coup judgments.

Emre Turkut is a doctoral researcher at Ghent University and a member of the Ghent Rolin-Jaequemyns International Law Institute (GRILI). He previously held a Swedish Institute fellowship at Uppsala University. Emre’s research covers a variety of fields within the domain of public international law and international human rights law, including derogation from human rights, state of emergency, human rights in the fight against terrorism, self-determination and remedial secession doctrine. His PhD research concerns the compatibility of the Turkish derogation measures adopted in the aftermath of the 15 July 2016 attempted military coup with international human rights law, and with international law more generally, and uses the Turkish case as a springboard to critically address the fallacies of the contemporary derogation regime. He is a DAAD visiting fellow at the Hertie School’s Centre for Fundamental Rights (2019/2020).