Top Turkish court finds violation of rights in ban on Saturday Mothers meeting

Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled that the Beyoğlu District Governor's Office's violated the rights of Saturday Mothers by banning their meeting, who have been gathering in Galatasaray Square since 1995 against enforced disappearances of their relatives. However, the top court rejected that there was "ill-treatment" in the police's attack to disperse the "banned" meeting.

Duvar English

The Turkish Constitutional Court, which is the highest court for individual appeals in the country, has found violation of rights in the ban on Saturday Mother’s 700th vigil.

The Saturday Mothers (“Cumartesi Anneleri”) have been gathering in Istanbul since 1995 to demand justice for their relatives who were allegedly disappeared and killed by undercover units.

The Istanbul Beyoğlu District Governor's Office banned the 700th meeting of Saturday Mothers on August 25, 2018 on the grounds that “no notification was made beforehand.”

On the 700th meeting, the police attacked the Saturday Mothers who gathered on the Galatasaray Square, the historical meeting point for the group, and detained 23 people. Afterwards, the security forces attacked people who were sitting in the nearby cafes with water cannons and tear gas and detained one person. 

A Turkish Court filed a lawsuit against 46 people on charges of "opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations."

Maside Ocak, the sister of Hasan Ocak who has been subjected to enforced disappearance in 1995, was one of the people who got detained. Emine Ocak who was 82 years old back then also was subjected to violence. 

Maside Ocak filed a criminal complaint against law enforcement officers and their supervisors. However, the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office decided that there was “no grounds for an investigation.” When the Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace rejected her appeal as well, Ocak took the case to the Constitutional Court. 

Maside Ocak stated that "the vigil, which has been going on for 24 years, was held peacefully, and there was no notification by the authorities regarding the ban.”

She said that the law enforcement officers dispersed the meeting by using disproportionate force and she was injured during the intervention and detention. Hence, she filed a criminal complaint on the grounds that prohibition of ill-treatment and the right to organize meetings and demonstrations were violated.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the there was no "violation of the prohibition of ill-treatment."

Nonetheless, the majority of votes decided that the right to organize meetings and demonstrations, regulated in Article 34 of the Constitution, of Saturday Mothers was violated.

The only dissenting vote was cast by Muhterem İnce, who was appointed as a member of the Constitutional Court while he was deputy interior minister. The Constitutional Court also ordered the applicant to be paid 13,500 Turkish Liras for non-pecuniary damages.

The Saturday Mothers still cannot gather on Galatasaray Square and they have read their weekly press releases in the Human Rights Association’s buildings until COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, they continued to issue their press statement online.