Last month P24 lawyer Tobias Garnett traveled to Tirana, Albania for the Fourth Regional Rule of Law Forum for South East Europe. There he met with around 200 lawyers, judges, and representatives from governments and NGOs to discuss problems with the implementation of, and adherence to, the European Convention of Human Rights in countries across the Balkans, Russia, and Turkey. The focus of this year's conference was on freedom of expression, and its interrelationship with the rights to privacy and a fair trial.
Also attending the conference were European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judges from Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and a former judge from Macedonia. P24 was the only organisation from Turkey represented in the two-day conference's sessions, in which participants shared their experiences of the ways in which freedom of expression is curtailed - both directly and indirectly.
In addition to these working group sessions, there was an opportunity to discuss the current situation in Turkey with ECtHR judges. Judge Turkovic (Croatia) expressed her "alarm" at the influx of Turkish cases that the Court was receiving following the Turkish government's crackdown after the failed coup of 15 July 2016, noting that it was "now receiving 300 - 500 cases per day from Turkey." When pushed on the ECtHR's approach to the fact that the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) had not ruled on a single application before it in the 9 months since the failed coup, she also conceded that "ruling [that applicants must wait for a decision from the TCC before applying to the ECtHR] only provides temporary relief for the ECtHR because when enough time elapses and if Turkish authorities do not react then it will come to us and we will have to react".
Judge Vucinic (Montenegro) added his concern at the building backlog of cases, acknowledging that "the situation is more than exceptional concerning Turkey but we are trying to deal with it", and former judge Trajkovska (Macedonia) believed that it would be necessary to "think about different procedures" to deal with the weight of the caseload.
The following week, P24 was represented in a panel discussion hosted by The Guardian
, before a packed audience in London. Lawyer Tobias Garnett joined Guardian columnist Owen Jones, award-winning novelist Elif Shafak, activist and son of journalist Can Dündar, Ege Dündar, and the chair for contemporary Turkish studies at the European Institute at London School of Economics, Dr Esra Özyürek, for a discussion entitled: "Lessons from Turkey: How do you weather the populist storm?" The participants and audience spoke about the current situation in Turkey in the wake of last summer's failed coup and the subsequent crackdown on Turkey's institutions. In the lead up to the 16 April referendum, the panel also considered Turkey's trajectory and its future in light of a yes or no vote.
, European Court of Human Rights