Conference to launch the action “Supporting the Implementation and Reporting on the Action Plan on Human Rights in Turkey”

09 December 2019, Istanbul



Honourable judges, Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,


It is a great privilege for me to conclude together with Deputy Minister of Justice, Mr Şaban Yilmaz this outstanding event!

It is outstanding, first of all, due to the high political level attendance which reveals the commitment of both the Council of Europe and of the Turkish leadership to our common and continuous endeavour, that is the consolidation of our common Pan-European legal space based on the European Convention on Human Rights.

Our event is also outstanding because it is dedicated to a very specific and comprehensive tool for the sake of the consolidation of the Convention's acquis in Turkey, that is the Human Rights Action Plan.

I would like at the outset thank our long-standing and most reliable partner, the Ministry of Justice, the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Justice, Haci Ali AÇIKGÜL, for your willingness to further our cooperation through the implementation of a new ambitious Action Plan. We are also willing to do so at the Council of Europe, as today's event has once again clearly confirmed. We are grateful to the European Union for their support of the project, and more generally, of our work for the implementation of the CoE conventions in Turkey.

The Action Plan on Human Rights will address virtually all issues arising in numerous Turkish cases that reach the Constitutional Court and the Strasbourg Court. We see the Action plan as being complementary to the Judicial Reform Strategy inaugurated by the President of Turkey earlier this year. At the same time, the Action Plan is expected to be even more targeted to the general measures that will address structural problems highlighted by the Strasbourg Court.

I should emphasise that among all measures being planned, some are more urgently needed than others.

Turkey remains one of the countries with most cases brought to ECtHR: it ranks third for the volume of cases and violations of all kinds found by the Strasbourg Court. That said, it is the country with the biggest number of violations of the right to freedom of expression (321 cases up until 2018) and second ranked in respect of violations of the right to liberty and security. The success of the Action Plan on Human Rights will be tested against its ability to revert this worrying trend.

We look forward to the presentation of the Action Plan in Strasbourg next week and the exchange that will follow. We would very much appreciate if our Turkish partners could clearly give priority to the most urgent issues I have just mentioned and consider the time-frame for adoption of numerous reforms provided for under the Action Plan.

As our Secretary General emphasized this morning, the value of the present Action Plan on Human Rights will be tested against the results that it will bring. And I would even add, not the process-oriented results, but also the impact in real life that we owe to others and to ourselves.

You will no doubt agree that the real criterion of success at the end of the day is whether and how such legal changes are translated into judicial practice. The example of Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law speaks for itself, we welcome the change, but what matters is that interpretation by the judiciary ensures the proportionality of measures in line with the jurisprudence of the ECtHR and preventing any form of arbitrariness.

From this perspective, we note with interest that the draft Action Plan will include a dedicated chapter on the monitoring and assessment of its results. Our project should also contribute to improvement of the assessment methodology containing measurable indicators of the Action Plan's impact on real life. We would also welcome that the results of this assessment be made available to the public, so as, among other things to increase accountability of those responsible for their implementation.

In order to achieve such tangible results, we need to establish an inclusive professional dialogue with all actors concerned at the national level. Participation of civil society and the media in the Action Plan' discussion and implementation is called for by all means. An effective and meaningful dialogue implies finding value in different perspectives. We expect therefore non-governmental actors representing citizens to be on board in the process.


Last but not least, we would very much insist on building upon the achievements of our past and current joint projects in Turkey. For example, the change of judicial practice in the area of freedom of expression will gain from using the training materials that have already been developed by the CoE HELP programme for the Turkish Justice Academy. Also, the structural problems in the field of detention should benefit from the project activities under our projects for reform of criminal justice.

Indeed, the best way to tackle problems is through building upon our achievements.

As recently as two months ago we had an exceptional privilege to conclude here in Istanbul, together with President Arslan, a comprehensive project for support of the Turkish Constitutional Court. That project has successfully highlighted the remarkable jurisprudential results of the Constitutional Court along with the standing need to ensure the proper implementation of its judgments by all authorities.

The launching of the current project for the Human Rights Action Plan benefits from the presence of the President of the Court of Cassation, Mr İsmail Rüştü CİRİT. It pursues the same overarching goal that human rights, inherent in both the Constitution and Convention, be solidly anchored in both the law and practice of all courts and authorities of Turkey.

I am confident that our mutual dedication and support will lead the ambitious action plan elaborated by the Ministry of Justice to bring equally ambitious results in both legislation and practice. I very much encourage all superior courts here present to help in transforming this outstanding ambition into practical results for the sake of all Turkish citizens, for the benefit of Turkey as a modern and powerful state.


Thank you for your commitment in this endeavour!