Turkish Constitutional Court finds rights violation in closing off Taksim Square for Labor Day celebrations

The Constitutional Court of Turkey has found that the Istanbul Governor’s decision to ban Labor Day celebrations on Taksim Square in 2014 and 2015 violated the “right to assembly and demonstration.” 

Duvar English

The Turkish Constitutional Court found that the Istanbul Governor’s decision to ban Labor Day celebrations at Istanbul’s historically significant Taksim Square violated the “right to assembly and demonstration” protected by the constitution. The court decision was published in the Dec. 15 official gazette. 

The court finalized its decision on the two applications made in 2016 by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) and the Confederation of Public Workers’ Unions (KESK) of Turkey. 

The court ruled with a 10-5 majority vote that the governorship decision constituted “a violation of the right to assembly and demonstration protected by clause 34 of the Turkish Constitution.”

The Taksim Square’s status as the location for Labor Day celebrations has long been disputed. The square was closed off to the celebrations after the 1977 massacre that killed 34. 

Between 2010 and 2012, the square hosted immense crowds on May 1, as the Istanbul Governor opened the square upon deliberations with unions. 

Taksim Square has been closed for any demonstrations including May Day celebrations since 2013, particularly after Gezi Park protests. The governor’s office cited security concerns and tourist density in the area and designated other convention areas for the celebrations. 

Only select trade unions, often those close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), are allowed in the square to leave commemorative wreaths. 

Police have blocked avenues leading to Taksim Square and violently intervened in any attempts by unauthorized groups to enter since 2013.