Press Release No: Individual Application 24/21
Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding a Violation of the Prohibition of Ill-treatment due to the Failure to Conduct an Effective Investigation into a Student’s Suicide
On 10 February 2021, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found a violation of the procedural aspect of the prohibition of ill-treatment, safeguarded by Article 17 of the Constitution, in the individual application lodged by Eyüp Toy and Saadet Toy (no. 2017/34841).
The applicants are the parents of a high-school student who committed suicide (N.T.). On the day of incident, N.T. wished to take back her mobile phone from her friend in another classroom to whom she had previously given. At that time, N.T.’s teacher, having noticed the situation, went to the other classroom to take N.T.’s mobile phone. The suspected teacher stated on this matter that when she had taken N.T.’s mobile phone, she had noticed the incoming messages but had not read them; that she had shown these messages to the teacher at the other classroom; and that having seen that the sender of the messages had been another student studying at the same school, she had then delivered N.T.’s mobile phone to the deputy principal.
The applicants nevertheless claimed that the teacher had indeed read the messages. In this sense, three other students at the classroom where the suspected teacher took the mobile phone noted that the teacher had come in the classroom and taken N.T.’s mobile phone; that having glanced at it for a couple of minutes, the suspected teacher had then showed the mobile phone to the other teacher at the classroom. The teacher at the classroom, where the mobile phone was taken, stated that the teacher coming in the classroom had taken N.T.’s mobile phone from the relevant student, shown it to her and said that it had been switched on; and that neither she nor the suspected teacher had read the messages.
The deputy principle to whom the mobile phone was ultimately delivered talked to N.T., who admitted to have messaged with one of her schoolmates. Thereupon, the school principals phoned the parents of these two students so as to inform them of the situation. At the end of the school day, N.T. committed suicide by jumping off a building under construction. The incumbent chief public prosecutor’s office (“the prosecutor’s office) immediately initiated an investigation into N.T.’s suicide.
The applicants filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office and sought the punishment of those responsible, maintaining that their daughter had been subjected to emotional pressure by the school principals and the relevant teacher and committed suicide on account of the embarrassment and fear she had suffered. However, the prosecutor’s office issued a decision of non-prosecution with respect to the offences of breaching the privacy of private life, and inducing and helping someone to commit suicide. The applicant’s challenge against the decision of non-prosecution was dismissed by the relevant magistrate judge.
The Applicants’ Allegations
The applicants maintained that the prohibition of ill-treatment had been violated due to the lack of an effective investigation despite the degrading treatment inflicted on their daughter by the school principals and teachers.
The Court’s Assessment
At the end of the investigation conducted by the prosecutor’s office, no criminal case was filed against the suspected teacher and deputy principals owing to the lack of any causal link between the impugned acts of these public officials and N.T.’s suicide.
The applicants filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office as their daughter’s had been subjected to degrading treatment due to the impugned acts of the suspected teacher and principals. However, the prosecutor’s office confined its investigation merely to the suicide, as well as to the question whether the messages in N.T.’s mobile phone had been disclosed.
It was not, however, investigated whether the suspected teacher or principals had displayed attitudes towards N.T., which amounted to ill-treatment, and whether N.T. had been subjected to any degrading treatment. Nor was any inquiry or assessment made as to the attitude taken by the school administration in regard to the incident and the effects of such attitude on N.T..
It was found established through the evidence collected, and the statements of the witnesses heard, within the scope of the investigation that there were certain unfavourable conducts displayed by the suspected public officials towards N.T.. However, the investigation authorities did not address and clarify the process during which the school principals had interviewed with the students concerned and their families. They instead completed the investigation without discussing the applicants’ complaint in the light of the available evidence.
The obligation to conduct an effective investigation is founded on a meticulous investigation of the allegations of ill-treatment by the investigation authorities. It has been, however, observed that in the present case, the prosecutor’s office failed to do so. It has been accordingly concluded that no effective investigation was conducted regarding the applicants’ complaints due to the lack of an investigation into the impugned complaint.
Besides, despite the arguable claims raised so as to prove that N.T. had been subjected to ill-treatment, no criminal investigation was conducted into these claims. Therefore, the Court could not reach a conclusion as to the veracity of these claims and therefore make an examination from the standpoint of the substantive aspect of the prohibition of ill-treatment.
Consequently, the Court has found a violation of the procedural aspect of the prohibition of ill-treatment.
This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.