Tuesday 21 December 2021

Academic Freedom in Turkey before the Strasbourg Court: A Third Party Intervention by a Coalition of Academic Interveners

This week a coalition of academics, including this blog's editors, has submitted a third party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in the so-called 'Academics for Peace' cases.

The background of these cases is the following: in the wake of the failed coup d'état of July 2016, the Turkish Government has employed emergency measures not only to re-establish peace and order, and to deal with those directly responsible for the coup d'état, but also to silence and in many cases attack, among others, journalists, academics or minorities. These systemic attacks undermine the overall academic freedom in Turkey.

This currently pending group of applications before the European Court of Human Rights, the 'Academics for Peace' cases (Kamuran AKIN v. Turkey and 42 other applications, applications nos. 72796/16, 72798/16, 72799/16 et al.), illustrate this. The cases concern a group of academics from different Turkish universities who on 11 January 2016 issued a statement entitled “We will not be a party to this crime”, which critically questioned the Turkish Government’s role in the conflict in South-East Turkey and the associated serious human rights violations. President Erdoğan accused them of treason, and hundreds of academics, including the applicants, were then dismissed from their university positions through a series of emergency decrees. 

The group of academics who submitted the third-party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights addresses the connection of the cases with academic freedom and elaborates on the importance of academic freedom in and for the Convention system. The third party intervention was presented by Professors Helen Duffy and Philip Leach (co-supervisors in the Turkey Litigation Support Project) on behalf of a group of 19 academics, including the co-editors of this blog (Antoine Buyse  and Kushtrim Istrefi).