POSTS BY Ali Yildiz

Before it Spreads “Like Wildfire”: Prisoners’ Rights in the Time of COVID-19

There are more than 10.7 million people imprisoned throughout the world. Prisons are notorious incubators and amplifiers of infections, and the fear among inmates due to COVID-19 is deepening all across the world (France, UK, US and Australia among many others). During the current pandemic, protecting prisons from the ‘tidal wave of COVID-19’ proves to be a challenging issue for States. After all, they have obligations and duties under international law to safeguard the human rights of prisoners, particularly their right to life, health and human treatment.

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The Turkish Judiciary’s Violations of Human Rights Guarantees

On 3 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of Parmak & Bakir v Turkey that the Turkish judiciary’s interpretation of the offence of membership of an armed terrorist organization violated Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, being the absolute right to no punishment without law. Although the case deals with incidents from 2002, it shows how Turkey’s post-coup terrorism trials violate Turkey’s obligations under the ECHR.

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Turkey’s Disregard for the Freedom of Movement

Through Emergency Decree Laws and Law no. 7188, the Turkish government has severely restricted the freedom of movement of hundreds of thousands of citizens by cancelling their passports or refusing to issue a new one. These laws and the corresponding practice not only violate the Turkish constitution but also contravene Turkey’s human rights obligations under regional and international law.

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Did Turkey’s Recent Emergency Decrees Derogate from the Absolute Rights?

Following a coup attempt by a small group in the Turkish Armed Forces in 2016, the Turkish Government declared a state of emergency for three months. Although it observed procedural rules laid down by national and international law on declaring a state of emergency, the Government’s use of the emergency powers contradicts non-derogable rights laid down in the Turkish Constitution, the ICCPR and the ECHR.

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