Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. Allegations of involvement in serious human rights abuses can threaten modern business’ reputations and business relationships and may also entail civil or criminal liability for corporations, and for their officers and employees.
Human Rights and International Law
Human Rights Law governs the obligations of States towards citizens and other individuals within their jurisdiction. Human rights law enshrines the highest of human ideals, that every human being has a set of rights and freedoms. Human rights thus cannot be taken away by States and apply at all times.
All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education , or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
Human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others.
Bıçak Law’s Human Rights Law practice gives practical and effective advice about human rights and discrimination to businesses, educational institutions, professional regulatory bodies and other organizations, under both domestic and international laws.
We have acted as counsel in many landmark decisions in this complex and sensitive area. Our advisory and representational services include:
- Developing proactive strategies, including conflict audits, to prevent human rights problems and effectively resolve human rights complaints
- Representing clients before human rights tribunals, arbitration tribunals and the courts, and helping resolve human rights problems with progressive dispute resolution techniques and creative strategies
- Advising professional regulatory bodies on professional regulation and discipline, including admission criteria, admission of foreign trained professionals and human rights complaints
- Advising educational institutions on all aspects of education policy and administration, including admission standards, student discipline, accommodation of disabilities and systemic discrimination
- Developing and implementing human rights policies, with related training, to avoid costly conflict that often irreparably damages organizational and trust capital
- Providing comprehensive and timely audits, investigations and inquiries, as trouble-shooters, fact finders and ombudspersons
Individual Application to the Turkish Constitutional Court: With the constitutional amendment adopted by the public referendum on 12/9/2010, Turkish Constitutional Court was authorized to conclude and finalize the individual applications and the Court started to receive applications as of 23/9/2012. Individual application can be lodged by those who claim to suffer violation of any of their fundamental rights and freedoms in the Constitution and secured under the ECHR and its additional Protocols ratified by Turkey, by public authorities. The rights defined under the Constitution such as;
- right to life,
- freedom from torture and punishment,
- freedom from compulsory labour,
- right to liberty and security of the person,
- right to seek remedy,
- lawfulness of offences and punishment,
- right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence,
- freedom of religion and conscience,
- freedom of expression,
- freedom of assembly an association,
- right to property,
- right to free election,
- protection of fundamental rights and freedoms,
- right to education and equality
can be given as an example. Legal persons (associations, foundations, commercial partnerships, companies etc.) may file individual application on the grounds that the rights granted only for legal persons such as freedom of association or right to legal remedies were violated. Individual applications must be lodged with an Individual Application Form or a petition containing all information required to be specified in the application form and with an identical format. Information requested in the form should be complete, legible and signed by the applicant. If the applicant has a lawyer or a legal representative, the form should be signed by them. Anyone who claims that any of his/her fundamental constitutional rights was violated is first required to use other administrative and judicial mechanisms that primarily have competence in this area and in case of failure in finding a solution at this point, can bring his/her claim to the Constitutional Court.
Individual Application to the European Court of Human Rights: Turkey ratified the European Convention Human Rights in 1954 and recognized the right to individual petition to the ECtHR in 1987, and mandatory judicial power of the ECtHR in 1990. One may lodge an application with the ECHR if he/she consider that he/she have personally and directly been the victim of a violation of the rights and guarantees set out in the European Convention on Human Rights or its Protocols. The alleged violation must have been committed by one of the States bound by the Convention. The following rights, in particular, are protected:
- the right to life,
- the right to a fair hearing in civil and criminal matters,
- the right to respect for private and family life,
- freedom of expression,
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion,
- the right to an effective remedy,
- the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions, and
- the right to vote and to stand for election.
The following, in particular, are prohibited:
- torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,
- arbitrary and unlawful detention,
- discrimination in the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention,
- expulsion or denial of entry by a State in respect of its own nationals,
- the death penalty, and
- the collective expulsion of aliens.
Conditions related to an Applicant:
- You do not need to be a national of one of the States bound by the Convention. The violation you are complaining of must simply have been committed by one of those States against a person within its “jurisdiction”, which usually means on its territory.
- You can be a private individual or a legal entity such as a company or association. You must have directly and personally been the victim of the violation you are alleging.
- You cannot make a general complaint about a law or a measure, for example because it seems unfair; nor can you complain on behalf of other people (unless they are clearly identified and you are their official representative).
The following international human rights treaties have been signed and ratified by Turkey:
- the Charter of the United Nations entered into force on 24 August 1945;
- the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide entered into force on 12 January 1951;
- the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment entered into force on 21 April 1988. Turkey is not bound by article 30/1 referring to arbitration;
- the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered into force on 7 July 2003. Article 27 shall be interpreted and applied in accordance with the Turkish Constitution and the Treaty of Lausanne;
- the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered into force on 29 June 2006. The competence of the Human Rights Committee shall:
- not apply to communications from individuals that are subject to another procedure of international investigation or settlement;
- be limited to communications concerning alleged violations due to, or a decision on acts or events occurring within Turkish territory after, the protocol’s entry into force, and
- not apply to communications alleging the violation of article 26 of the Covenant that refer to rights other than those guaranteed under the Covenant;
- the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, entered into force on 12 December 2005;
- the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entered into force on 10 July 2003. Articles 13/3 and 13/4 of the Covenant will be interpreted in accordance with article 3 (the state’s integrity, official language, flag, national anthem and capital), article 14 (prohibition of misuse of fundamental rights and liberties) and article 42 (right and duty of education) of the Turkish Constitution;
- the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination entered into force on 13 May 2002. Regarding article 22 of the Convention on the competence of the International Court of Justice, the explicit consent of the Republic of Turkey is required in each individual case;
- the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women entered into force on 24 July 1985. Turkey is not bound by article 29/1 referring to arbitration; and its Optional Protocol entered into force on 26 August 2002;
- the Convention on the Political Rights of Women entered into force on 26 January 1960;
- the Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force on 9 December 1994. Articles 17, 29 and 30 shall be interpreted according to the Turkish Constitution and the Treaty of Lausanne; and
- the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families entered into force on 18 June 2004. Declaration on article 15: Restrictions under Turkish laws regarding acquisition of immovable property by foreigners are preserved. Reservation on article 40: the Turkish Code on Trade Unions (No. 2821) allows only Turkish citizens to form trade unions in Turkey. The rights of migrant workers and their families to form trade unions is not applicable under Turkish laws. Declaration on articles 76 and 77: Turkey will recognise the competence of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families at a later stage.
Turkey has signed and ratified the eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization. The conventions entered into force in Turkey on the following dates:
- the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29): 30 October 1998;
- the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87): 12 July 1993;
- the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98): 23 January 1952;
- the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100): 19 January 1967;
- the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105): 29 March 1961;
- the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111): 19 July 1967;
- the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) (minimum age specified: 15 years): 30 October 1998; and
- the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182): 2 August 2001.