Woman battered by police during Newroz celebrations in Turkey takes case to Europe's top rights court

A 63-year-old woman named Behice Özlü petitioned the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about police brutality she suffered at the 2008 Newroz celebration in eastern Van. Özlü has pressed charges against police immediately after the violent intervention, but her efforts resulted in the Constitutional Court's dismissal in 2020.

Duvar English

A 63-year-old woman named Behice Özlü petitioned the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about police brutality she suffered from during the 2008 Newroz celebrations in Turkey's eastern Van, Mesopotamia Agency reported on March 17.

Özlü was among a group of participants at the 2008 Newroz celebration who got trampled and battered in a stampede that killed two people, and she pressed charges against the officers immediately after the incident.

A year after her initial report, the Van Chief Public Prosecutor's Office called her in to testify about the incident, but did not allow her attorney to be present while she gave her official statement.

Özlü's attorney Mahmut Kaçan noted that her statement was in violation of regulations because she didn't have legal counsel present, and made another official complaint about the officers from the Newroz celebration. 

Eight years after Özlü's initial complaint about police brutality, her attorney Kaçan petitioned Turkey's Constitutional Court on the grounds that the courts had failed to conduct an effective investigation in 2016.

Four years after the Constitutional Court was petitioned, it dropped the case on the grounds that Özlü hadn't exhausted all other legal avenues, a requirement to petition the top court about rights violations. 

"It was determined that the petitioner did not make the minimum effort to follow up with her petition, and it was deduced that they hadn't properly exhausted all legal avenues," the court said in a June 23, 2020 ruling.

Attorney Kaçan took the case to the ECHR as a last resort on charges of "torture and mistreatment." 

Meanwhile, relations between Ankara and the ECHR have been strained at best in recent months, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has created rhetoric that the top court's rulings did not have jurisdiction over the Turkish judiciary.