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European Court finds Turkey guilty of violating rights of gay prisoner

Turkish government ordered to pay compensation to gay prisoner kept in solitary confinement after he complained of bullying from inmates
The European Court of Human Rights

A gay Turkish prisoner who was put in solitary confinement after complaining about bullying from inmates has won his case against the Turkish government in the European Court of Human Rights.

The prisoner, named X in court papers, turned himself in for fraud-related offences in Izmir in October 2008. He was kept in pre-trial detention until February 2009 when he complained that he was being threatened and harassed by fellow detainees because of his sexuality.

X was moved to another cell that he says was dirty, poorly lit and usually used for solitary confinement for criminals who had committed severely violent crimes. He was denied exercise and social contact apart from with his lawyer and during court hearings.

In April 2009 X complained about his treatment but the judge declined to consider his case, and an appeal against the judge's decision was rejected in May. In July X was transferred to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with depression.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of X earlier this month saying that the conditions in which he was held constituted ‘inhuman or degrading treatment’ in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

The court also said that Article 14 of the ECHR, which protects people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, was violated.

The Turkish government was ordered to pay the prisoner €18,000 ($23,300) in compensation and €4,000 ($5,200) in expenses.

ILGA (International Gay and Lesbian Association) Europe said the case is ‘a very important reaffirmation of principle’ because it stressed ‘the duty of the state to investigate homophobic motivation’.

ILGA Europe said in a statement:

‘Not only is it no longer possible for authorities across Europe to ignore the fact that they have an obligation to explore homophobic motivation, but also lawyers and activists working on such cases now have a very persuasive judgment from the Court to support their arguments.

Maltreatment of LGBTI prisoners – although poorly documented – is a serious problem in a number of Council of Europe member states. This case puts the spotlight on this problem, and warns those responsible for prisons that they cannot assume that they will get away with being complicit in, or ignoring, such behaviour.’ 

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