Soyler v Turkey: ECHR 17 Sep 2013

ECHR Article 3 of Protocol No. 1
Automatic and indiscriminate disenfranchisement of persons convicted of intentional offences, irrespective of the nature and gravity of the offence: violation
Facts – Under Turkish law, persons convicted of having intentionally committed an offence are unable to vote. Their disenfranchisement does not come to an end if they are released from prison on probation, but only when the full period for which they were originally sentenced has elapsed. Likewise, when a prison sentence longer than one year is suspended and the convicted person does not serve any time in prison, he or she will still be unable to vote for the duration of the period for which the sentence is suspended.
The applicant was given a five-year sentence for cheque fraud in 2007. He was released on probation two years later. Between 2007 and 2012 two general elections were held but he was unable to vote in either.
Law – Article 3 of Protocol No. 1: In so far as the restrictions placed on voting rights in Turkey were applicable to convicted persons who did not even serve a prison term, they were harsher and more far-reaching than those applicable in the United Kingdom, Austria and Italy, which had been the subject matter of examination by the Court in its judgments in the cases of Hirst (no. 2), Frodl and Scoppola (no. 3). In Turkey, disenfranchisement was an automatic consequence derived from statute, and was therefore not left to the discretion or supervision of the judiciary. Moreover, unlike the situation in Italy which had been examined in the case of Scoppola (no. 3), the measure restricting the right to vote in Turkey was indiscriminate in its application in that it did not take into account the nature or gravity of the offence, the length of the prison sentence – leaving aside suspended sentences of less than one year – or the individual circumstances of the convicted persons. The Turkish legislation contained no express provisions categorising or specifying any offences for which disenfranchisement was foreseen. The Court did not consider that the sole requirement of the element of ‘intent’ in the commission of the offence was sufficient to lead it to conclude that the current legal framework adequately protected the rights in question and did not impair their very essence or deprive them of their effectiveness. As such, the applicant’s case illustrated the indiscriminate application of the restriction even to persons convicted of relatively minor offences. Furthermore, the Court was also unable to see any rational connection between the sanction and the applicant’s conduct and circumstances. The automatic and indiscriminate application of this harsh measure on a vitally important Convention right had to be seen as falling outside any acceptable margin of appreciation.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 41: Finding of a violation constituted sufficient just satisfaction in respect of any non-pecuniary damage.
(See: Hirst v. the United Kingdom (no. 2) [GC], 74025/01, 6 October 2005, Information Note 79; Frodl v. Austria, 20201/04, 8 April 2010, Information Note 129; and Scoppola v. Italy (no. 3) [GC], 126/05, 22 May 2012, Information Note 152)


29411/07 – Legal Summary, [2013] ECHR 962, [2013] ECHR 1198


Bailii, Bailii


European Convention on Human Rights


Human Rights

Human Rights, Elections

Updated: 16 August 2022; Ref: scu.516478