Press Release No: Plenary Assembly 22/20
Press Release concerning the Decision Annulling the Provision Banning Demonstration Marches on Intercity Highways
The Constitutional Court, at its session dated 10 September 2020, found unconstitutional and annulled the phrase “… and demonstration marches shall not be held on intercity highways.” included in Article 22 § 1 of the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstration Marches (file no. E.2020/12).
The contested provision stipulates that demonstration marches shall not be held on intercity highways.
Ground for the Request for Annulment
It was maintained in brief that in determining the place where a demonstration march would be held, the rights and freedoms of other individuals who would use that place should also be taken into consideration; however, the impugned provision imposed a categorical ban without such consideration. In this regard, the contested provision was claimed to be unconstitutional.
The Court’s Assessment
The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, safeguarded by Article 34 of the Constitution, protects the freedom of individuals to come together in open or closed places to express their thoughts. This right, taken together with the freedom of expression, forms the basis of a democratic society.
The contested provision constitutes a limitation ratione loci on the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, stipulating that demonstration marches shall not be held on intercity highways.
The Court set forth its basic approach regarding the restriction ratione loci imposed on the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches in its judgment no. E.2014/101, K.2017/142 dated 28 September 2017, where it annulled the phrase “Public roads …” included in Article 22 § 1 of Law no. 2911.
That judgment stated; that meetings and demonstration marches inevitably had an adverse effect on the daily lives of others; that the use of public roads for different purposes might result in a conflict among different freedoms, however, in case of such a conflict, a reasonable balance should be struck between freedoms, thereby affording equal protection as much as possible; and that in this regard, the hindrance of the freedom of travel of people using these roads due to the meetings organised on public roads would not automatically require a ban on holding meetings on these roads.
Disruption of vehicle traffic affects the public order as well as the others’ freedom of travel. Thus, it is understood that the restriction imposed by the impugned provision pursues a legitimate aim.
In determining the route where the demonstration march will be held, granting absolute superiority to the prevention of the disruption of highway traffic will cause a disproportionate balance between the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, and the public order as well as the rights and freedoms of others, to the detriment of the former. As pointed out in the previous judgments of the Court, meetings and demonstration marches inevitably have an adverse effect on the daily lives of others, which should be tolerated in a democratic society.
In cases where the rights and freedoms of others are granted absolute superiority in determining the place where the demonstration march will be held, only certain places will be allowed as the route of the march, and the remaining places will be regarded as absolutely prohibited areas. However, in some cases, the place where the marches are held and the route chosen are of great importance with a view to influencing the target group. Unless there is a pressing need in a democratic society, individuals should be able to choose the place where they will hold a demonstration march.
Where the disruption of vehicle traffic due to a demonstration march makes daily life extremely difficult and unbearable, then this right may be limited provided that the constitutional principles and rules are respected. The contested provision categorically bans the organisation of demonstration marches on intercity highways, without referring to the extent of the potential disruption or hardship.
Thus, it has been concluded that the restriction on the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches does not meet a pressing social need, nor does it comply with the requirements of the order of a democratic society.
Consequently, the contested provision has been found unconstitutional and therefore annulled.
This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.