Monday 2 June 2008

What's in a name?

A local Turkish court ordered the closure of a Istanbul-based LGBT association (one of the only ones in the country) last Thursday . The name of the Lambda Istanbul Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transvestites Association was found to be contrary to Turkish morals, since it contained words describing sexual identity. This is part of a press release to be found on Jurist Legal News and Research:

In 2005, Turkish prosecutors rejected a demand by Ankara's deputy governor to shut down gay rights group Kaos Gay and Lesbian Cultural Research and Solidarity Association. The governor's office argued that the title and purpose of the group violated the Turkish Civil Code, which prohibits associations against law and morality, but prosecutors disagreed. A protective clause against anti-gay discrimination was written into the country's penal code in 2004 in an effort to strengthen Turkey's bid to join the European Union, but it was later removed by Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, according to gay rights activists. The EU has said that Turkey must implement human rights reforms before it would be admitted to the EU, but has given no specific instructions that GLBT rights should be included in the changes.

The Lambda Association already announced it will appeal the case, eventually taking it to the European Court of Human Rights if higher Turkish Courts uphold the ban. For BBC coverage of the case, see here. For those interested in more context: last month, Human Rights Watch released a report on gender, sexuality and human rights in Turkey.

The European Court of Human Rights has issued judgments in several cases on GLBT rights. The most famous is undoubtedly the classic case of Dudgeon v. the United Kingdom (1981), in which the Court held that a Northern Irish law criminalising sexual acts between consenting male adults violated the right to privacy of Article 8 ECHR. Much more recently - and more relevant for the Turkish situation - the Court found a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) in the case of Bączkowski v. Poland (2007), involving a prohibition of certain demonstrations for gay and lesbian rights in Warsaw.

The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lluís Maria de Puig, expressed his concern over the ban. For the press release, see here.

We'll keep you informed on whether and when the case reaches the European level. This case was pointed out to me by my good friend Felix Ronkes Agerbeek. Thanks, Felix!