The ‘Reasonable Suspicion’ Test of Turkey’s Post-Coup Emergency Rule under the European Convention on Human Rights
Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 2020.
Since the 15 July 2016 failed coup, Turkey has seen the mass arrests and detention of hundreds of thousands of individuals; among them are judges and prosecutors, military personnel, police officers, journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and opposition politicians who have been deprived of their liberty on an array of terrorism-related charges. While this has raised numerous human rights issues, this article focuses on those relating to pre-trial restrictions imposed on the right to liberty and security of individuals during the post-coup state of emergency. Building on the theory and use of the reasonableness concept in the field of pre-trial detention through a particular focus on the ‘reasonable suspicion’ test under Article 5 § 1 (c) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR or the Convention), the article analyses the role of the European Court of Human Rights (the Court or the ECtHR) in enforcing the guarantees of the right to liberty in the Turkish post-coup cases of Mehmet Hasan Altan, Şahin Alpay, Alparslan Altan and Kavala. Against the background of pre-existing Convention standards on pre-trial reasonable suspicion in states of emergency, it finds that the ECtHR has adopted a stronger supervisory stance regarding the compatibility of Turkish post-coup detention practices than the more hesitant approach shown in the prior derogation context of Northern Ireland. While these decisions give some cause for optimism in the hope for a judicial boldness on the part of the ECtHR in condemning Turkey’s arbitrary detention practices during the state of emergency, the article argues that there is further scope for the Court to strengthen its protection in this respect. Notably, despite the positive aspects in the Court’s approach, by continuing to support the notion that the Turkish legal landscape is capable of addressing Article 5 violations and not tackling the underlying structural issues so clearly at play, the Court leaves a glaring gap in rights protection for those seeking justice.