No more Mr. Nice Guy


Two court cases caught our eye this morning.  One highlights excessive use of force by security services and their impunity from prosecution; the other highlights the use of lawsuits to dampen free speech.  Neither reflects well on Turkish authorities.

In the first, The European Court of Human Rights has  found members of Prime Minister Erdogan’s security detail of beating a disabled man, Necati Yılmaz in 2007.

One presumably can’t blame Mr. Erdogan for the excesses of his security detail; the lack of investigation of allegations of abuse, however, is another matter.

In its ruling, the Court stated, that not only had authorities used disproportionate force, but that authorities had not undertaken an investigation into alleged abuses:

The Court noted that when Mr Yilmaz lodged a complaint an investigation had been opened and had been on-going for more than five years without any progress. The authorities had not taken the necessary steps to complete the investigation promptly.

The Court reiterated that in such circumstances a prompt response by the authorities in investigating allegations of ill-treatment was essential in maintaining public confidence in the rule of law and preventing any appearance of tolerance of unlawful acts.

The lack of diligence in the conduct of the investigation had resulted in virtual immunity being afforded to the Prime Minister’s bodyguards and in the applicant’s appeal being
rendered ineffective.  The Court considered that, far from being rigorous, the criminal-law system as applied in this case was not sufficiently dissuasive to effectively prevent illegal
acts of the type complained of by the applicant.

In the second case, Mr. Erdogan has initiated a defamation lawsuit against high school students for making fun of him during a protest over education policy.

As the Committee to Protect Journalists has noted, such harassment lawsuits represent one component of an overall strategy of cowing  critics in Turkey.

– Howard Eissenstat


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