ECHR Article 46
Respondent State required to take measures to ensure respect by law-enforcement officials of right to peaceful assembly
Facts – On 6 March 2006 the applicant took part in a demonstration in Istanbul to celebrate Women’s Day which ended in clashes between police and protesters. Video footage of the events showed police officers hitting a large number of demonstrators with their truncheons and spraying them with tear gas. Women who had taken refuge in shops were dragged out by the police and beaten up. According to the report of an expert appointed by the Turkish authorities to examine the video footage, police officers had not issued any warnings to disperse demonstrators before attacking them. The demonstrators, for their part, had not tried to respond to the attack but had only tried to flee. The applicant sustained bruising all over her body and lodged an official complaint against the police officers she considered responsible for her ill-treatment. Of a total of 54 police officers accused of causing injuries by the use of excessive force at the demonstration, 48 were acquitted for lack of evidence. The six remaining officers were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from five to twenty-one months, but the proceedings against them were discontinued under the statute of limitations.
Law – The Court unanimously found violations of the substantive and procedural aspects of Article 3 of the Convention through the use of disproportionate force and lack of an effective investigation, and a violation of Article 11 on account of the failure to respect her right to freedom of assembly.
Article 46 – The Court had already found in over 40 judgments against Turkey that the heavy-handed intervention of law-enforcement officials in demonstrations had amounted to a violation of Article 3 and/or Article 11 of the Convention. The common feature of those cases was the failure of the police forces to show a certain degree of tolerance towards peaceful gatherings and, in some instances, the precipitate use of force, including tear gas, by the police. In over 20 of the judgments, the Court had already observed the failure of the Turkish investigating authorities to carry out effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law-enforcement personnel during demonstrations. It further stressed that 130 applications against Turkey concerning the right to freedom of assembly and/or use of force by law-enforcement officials during demonstrations were currently pending.
Having classified these problems as ‘systemic’, the Court requested the Turkish authorities to adopt general measures in order to prevent further similar violations in the future. In particular, it asked the Turkish authorities to take steps to ensure that the police act in accordance with Articles 3 and 11 of the Convention, that the judicial authorities conduct effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment in conformity with the obligation under Article 3 and in such a way as to ensure the accountability of senior police officers also. Finally, the Court highlighted the need for a clearer set of rules to be adopted as regards the use of violence and weapons such as tear gas during demonstrations, especially against demonstrators who do not put up violent resistance.
Article 41: EUR 20,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
Human Rights, Police
Updated: 19 November 2021; Ref: scu.515131