Removable justice: ECHR takes special measures to ensure justice in Turkey despite earthquakes
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On the 6th of February 2023, earthquakes hit Turkey and Syria. These natural disasters resulted in approximately 48 000 deaths and thousands of injuries. From a global perspective, these events are human, humanitarian, economic and ecological catastrophes. However, this also has an impact on the effectiveness of justice in these countries.
In a press release, published on the 9th of March 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced taking special measures to deal with cases sent from the earthquake zone in Turkey.
As a reminder, the ECHR is an international court set up in 1959. It rules on individual or State applications alleging violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Since the Court was established, the Court has delivered 24 511 judgments of which 3 820 concerned Turkey to 31 December 2022. Thus, we see that the work of the Court is omnipresent in this country. Therefore, it is essential to ensure the effectiveness of the institution’s work in this territory.
On the 15th of February 2023, the Court received a letter from the Government of Türkiye: a state of emergency has been declared in the provinces affected by the earthquakes. Consequently, the ECHR takes special measures.
First of all, the Court suspends the requirements relating to Article 47 of the Rules of Court. This article sets out the information and documents that must be provided for making a valid application. For example, one of the required information is to indicate the address of the applicant. Due to the destruction of thousands of buildings, respecting this condition is impossible. However, this suspension is limited in time and is only effective for cases received after the 6th of February 2023.
Secondly, there is no general extension of the time limit for bringing cases before the Court, which has been four months since February 2022. However, the Court will take exceptional circumstances into account in its review of the admissibility of an action. Requests for extensions of time will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, it is stated that: “While there will be no general extension of the three-month time-limit for seeking referral to the Grand Chamber, admission of late requests may be considered in view of the exceptional circumstances”.
To conclude, through these various examples, the ECHR is an institution that can adapt to circumstances to ensure that the rights it protects are respected. Future developments will show whether this flexibility is sufficient and how the Court will overcome these obstacles.
Sources and further reading:
Press Release issued by the Registrar of the Court, European Court takes measures to deal with cases sent from earthquake zone in Türkiye :
Le Monde (15/03/2023), Angèle Pierre, Turquie : la peur d’un séisme géant pousse des habitants d’Istanbul à fuir la ville : https://www.lemonde.fr/seismes-en-turquie-et-en-syrie/
The Amnesty International Report 2021/22 – View report – Türkiye: https://www.amnesty.org/fr/location/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/
The European Court of Human Rights in facts & figures 2021 :