Press Release No: Individual Application 13/21

Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding Violations of the Treatment Incompatible with Human Dignity as well as the Freedoms of Expression and the Press due to the Police Intervention against the Journalist on Duty

On 12 January 2021, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found violations of the substantive and procedural aspects of the prohibition of treatment incompatible with human dignity safeguarded by Article 17 of the Constitution, as well as of the freedoms of expression and the press safeguarded respectively by Articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution in the individual application lodged by Beyza Kural Yılancı (no. 2016/78497).

The Facts

The applicant, a journalist, was at the incident scene to follow and report the march organised to protest the foundation anniversary of the Council of Higher Education. Despite stating that she was a press member, the applicant, while recording the incident, was handcuffed behind her back and taken into custody by the police. Being handcuffed, she was made to wait for a while and then released. At the end, no criminal investigation was initiated against her.

She then filed a criminal complaint with the incumbent chief public prosecutor’s office against the police officers and submitted a compact disc (CD), including video footage of the incident she complained of, along with her petition. The video footage in the CD was pertaining to the impugned incidents and had been recorded by the applicant herself.

Upon the instruction given by the prosecutor’s office, the police identified and questioned the police officers concerned. During their questioning, the police officers denied the accusations.

In the interim medical report issued by the Numune Training and Research Hospital in the aftermath of the impugned incident, it was noted that there were redress on the applicant’s two fingers and sensitivity on both arms. The report issued 40 days thereafter by the Forensic Medicine Department stated that the injuries sustained by the applicant were not of a serious nature, which could be treated by simple medical care, and that no bone fracture was observed. 

At the end of the investigation conducted into the applicant’s allegations, the prosecutor’s office issued a decision of non-prosecution, considering that the applicant had been released after she had been revealed to be a journalist and that the police officers complained of had not exceeded the limits of their powers on the use of force. Upon the dismissal, by the magistrate judge, of her challenge against the decision of non-prosecution, the applicant lodged an individual application.

The Applicant’s Allegations

The applicant maintained that there had been violations of the treatment incompatible with human dignity as well as of the freedoms of expression and the press as she had been subjected to police intervention and force during the demonstration she had attended as a press member.

The Court’s Assessment

1. Alleged Violation of the Prohibition of Ill-Treatment

As noted in the medical reports, following her being handcuffed by the police, the applicant had sensitivity on her arm and redness on her wrists. Given the extent of the injury on the applicant’s wrists in conjunction with the expression “Let me say you something: Anything is no longer like before; we will make you learn this (‘Sana bir şey söyleyeyim bak, hiçbir şey eskisi gibi değil artık, bunu öğreteceğiz size’)”, which was uttered by the police officer to the applicant, it has been considered that the applicant’s handcuffing was indeed intended for humiliating her, and so to say, teaching a lesson to her as she had taken the footage of the police officer and was intentionally effected in a way that would cause damage to her physical integrity. On the other hand, it appears that there was no legitimate ground, which could be demonstrated even subsequently, to justify her being made to wait handcuffed by use of force despite lasting for a while.   

It has been ultimately concluded that no effective criminal investigation, capable of leading to the identification and, if necessary, punishment of those responsible for the treatment inflicted on the applicant, which had been incompatible with human dignity, was conducted in the applicant’s case.

Consequently, the Court has found violations of the substantive and procedural aspects of the prohibition of ill-treatment.

2. Alleged Violations of Freedoms of Expression and the Press

The Court has concluded that the police intervention against the applicant did not correspond to any legitimate grounds specified in Article 26 § 2 of the Constitution and was not, therefore, justified. As a matter of fact, the administration and judicial authorities failed to submit plausible evidence to demonstrate that the impugned intervention, which precluded the applicant from performing her profession, had been lawful or pursued a legitimate aim. It is also evident that the impugned intervention cannot be considered compatible with the requirements of a democratic society.

Besides, it was not asserted that the applicant, who had been present at the place where the demonstration had been held in her capacity as a journalist, had indeed had any intention other than reporting the events, or had prevented the police officers from performing their duties during the ongoing demonstration, or had acted as a demonstrator and used force against, or posed a threat to, the police officers. Nor was there any determination or explanation, in the investigation file and the decision of non-prosecution issued at the end of the investigation, to the effect that the applicant’s preclusion from reporting the events as well as her being subjected to a physical intervention had been strictly necessary. On the contrary, at the end of the meticulous examination of the video footage, it has been concluded that she had been arbitrarily taken into custody and handcuffed. 

Consequently, the Court has found violations of the freedoms of expression and the press.

This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.