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Turkey taken to European Human Rights Court for violating right to free election

4 September 2006

Assisted by Minority Rights Group International lawyers representing two Kurdish politicians will challenge the Turkish government at the European Court of Human Rights today for violating their right to free elections under Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They will also argue that Turkey’s electoral system indirectly discriminates against minorities.

Turkey will appear before the court to defend itself against the charges made by two Kurdish politicians, Resul Sadak and Mehmet Yumak, who failed to get elected to parliament in the last election because Turkish law states that a political party is required to get 10 per cent of the national vote to get into parliament.

In a major breakthrough in May this year the Court admitted the case.

“By providing legal assistance, MRG is playing a pivotal role in this case where there has been a clear violation of the right to a free election as stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights,” says Clive Baldwin, Head of International Advocacy at MRG.

“The lawyers will also make the case that the way the Turkish electoral system is structured in such a way that it indirectly discriminates against minorities,” Baldwin adds.

“This case brings to light the level of discrimination faced daily by the Kurdish people,” he says.

The Turkish electoral system, set up after a military coup in 1980, has proportional representation but the 10% threshold has a major impact on minority groups, like the Kurds, whose chosen representatives are unable to get into parliament.

In the last election the Kurdish parties got nearly 45% of the vote in the south east of Turkey but did not secure any seats in parliament because they failed to get the 10 percent national vote. The threshold is the highest in Europe.

The hearing at the ECHR comes amidst an increase in violence in Turkey, which the government blames on Kurdish rebels. Last week two people were killed and nearly 50 injured in a series of bombings in tourist resorts across Turkey.

“We absolutely condemn the recent attacks in Turkey. But whilst we deplore acts of terror we can’t also ignore the tremendous hardships minority communities such as the Kurds face in Turkey,” Baldwin says.

For further information on this case or for interview requests please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].

Notes to editors

  • Lawyers Tahir Elci from Diyarbakir Bar Association and Sehnaz Turen from TOHAV in Istanbul will represent the Kurdish politicians at today’s hearing.
  • Clive Baldwin, human rights lawyer and Head of International Advocacy will represents MRG at the ECHR in Strasbourg.
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.