Violations of right to peaceful assembly in Turkey: The Oya Ataman case

Peaceful demonstrations in Turkey still face repression. Here an example with women blocked by police on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 2018. Photo: © 2018 Dilara Şenkaya/Bianet

Peaceful demonstrations in Turkey still face repression. Here an example with women blocked by police on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 2018. Photo: © 2018 Dilara Şenkaya/Bianet

On 22 April 2000, Oya Ataman took to Sultanahmet Square, Istanbul, in protest against prison conditions in Turkey.  Despite posing no threat to public order, Turkish authorities subjected Oya and several of her colleagues to arbitrary arrest and repelled them with pepper spray, a nerve agent capable of causing respiratory problems, nausea, vomiting and spasms.

In December 2006, The European Court found a violation of article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, protecting the right to peaceful assembly. on 22 April 2000, Oya Ataman took to Sultanahmet Square,Istanbul, in protest against prison conditions in Turkey.  Despite posing no threat to public order, Turkish authorities subjected Oya and several of her colleagues to arbitrary arrest and repelled them with pepper spray, a nerve agent capable of causing respiratory problems, nausea, vomiting and spasms.

 Judgment by the European Court of Human Rights

In December 2006, The European Court found a violation of article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights, protecting the right to peaceful assembly

Over a decade, and several CM meetings later, little progress had been achieved in carrying out investigations into mistreatment by the Turkish authorities. During its latest meeting, the Committee of ministers also noted that Turkey had failed bring its legislation governing meetings and demonstrations into line with European human rights standards.

Country situation

Protestors in Turkey are frequently met with arbitrary arrest, tear gas and excessive uses of force. Turkey’s failure to uphold the right to peaceful assembly has been criticised by several NGOs and international organisations including Human Rights Watch, the OSCE and The Council of Europe. Although the Turkish constitution allows for freedom of assembly, in practice authorities are allowed to subject protests to a number of arbitrary restrictions. In particular, the law prohibits carrying symbols or chanting slogans linked to illegal organisations and allows the state to impose penalties on individuals carrying items that might be construed as weapons. In the first 11 months of 2017, The Turkish Human Rights Association received 1,855 complaints from individuals injured in clashes with authorities during demonstrations.

Useful links to the Oya Ataman group v Turkey (Application No 74552/01):