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Selahattin Demirtaş v. Turkey (No. 2), No. 14305/17, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 22 December 2020

Selahattin Demirtaş v. Turkey (No. 2), No. 14305/17, ECtHR (Grand Chamber), 22 December 2020

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights recently delivered a judgment on the arrest and pre-trial detention of Mr Selahattin Demirtaş. The applicant, namely the leader of one of the main opposition parties in Turkey (the pro-Kurdish HDP), had been deprived of parliamentary immunity as a result of a constitutional amendment in May 2016, and subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention and criminal proceedings brought against him for terrorism-related offences on the basis of evidence comprising his political speeches.

In the instant case, the Grand Chamber found that such measures infringe freedom of expression protected under article 10 ECHR as well as freedom to liberty and security under article 5(1) and (3) ECHR, right to free elections under article 3, Protocol No. 1, ECHR, and limitations on use of restrictions on rights under Article 18 of the Convention. According to the Strasbourg Court, the applicant’s detention, especially during the campaign relating to the referendum of 2017 and the presidential election of the following year, had the effect of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which is at the very core of the concept of democratic society. The decision at issue concluded that national authorities were to take all necessary measures to secure the applicant’s immediate release.

This ruling – which falls within an ever-increasing judicial trend – takes on particular relevance also from a political point of view, in light of the current strains that characterize the Turkish context. Lastly, the dissenting opinions presented by Judge Wojtyczek, arguing that there has also been a violation of Article 5 (4) of the ECHR, and Judge Yüksel, regarding the length of pre-trial detention and foreseeability of internal law, are annexed to the judgment.


(Comment by Marco Galimberti)