Seminars to Convey Information and Experience on Domestic Application of Supranational and International Human Rights Law

We are grateful to the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ankara for their generous financial aid to our project.
H.R.A.A. / 27.12.2005

Civil Society – Human Rights – Law

City in which the project will be located
İZMİR – Reasons for choosing Izmir are as follows:

Izmir has an intellectually leading role in the field of human rights law in Turkey as explained in 2005 project. Thus it is a consequence of this role that the first human rights center in Turkey was set up in Izmir which then became a model for other districts. Lawyers in Izmir have received education on The European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and jurisprudence of The European Court of Human Rights since 1996. Some of those lawyers went on to specialise on human rights law and began providing education in Izmir and other cities. Through the work and experiences of these years a body of expert educator-lawyers appeared. (Most of them took part in the first project as educators). Apart from the cadre of educators, hundreds of other lawyers have received education on European Convention of Human Rights even if more limited. Thus an infrastructure came into being in Izmir. Besides, İzmir and Agean Region of Turkey is the most suitable district for democratic culture/climate. The first implemented project proved the leading role of Izmir once more. The results of the project were yielded in a short time. Moreover, demand was generated from big cities like Ankara and Istanbul to implement the project there, since those cities lack enough number of expert lawyers and educators to implement a similiar project. Most of the experienced, expert lawyer-educators of Turkey are based in Izmir.

Seminars to Convey Information and Experience on Domestic Application of Supranational Human Rights Law” supported by Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ankara in 2005, led to immensely positive consequences and contributed significantly to the capacity development of Human Rights Agenda Association (HRAA):

  • As a result of the project’s implementation, HRAA have been reported in national and local press and promoted widely. See:  “Özgür Gündem” daily: “Education for Lawyers on the European Court of Human Rights” Monday, 21 March 2005; “Hürriyet Ege” daily: “Judicial Solution without Referring to Europe” Monday, 2 May 2005; Turkish Daily News, daily: “Lawyers educated on jurispudence of ECHR” Tuesday, May 3, 2005;  “Radikal” daily: “What immigrants we have seen, they did not exist” Adanan Ekinci, 21 June 2005.
  • Sabancı University’s Education Reform Initiative listed HRAA’s “Seminars to Convey Information and Experience on Domestic Application of Supranational Human Rights Law”among exemplary work, at a meeting organised to highlight European Council’s declaration of 2005 as the year of “Citizenship through Education”. Through this meeting where the Committee of Ministry of Education was also present, opportunities to cooperate with the ministry and among other NGOs have arisen.
  • Resarch papers and reports have been prepared in the office building which is used as the headquarters of the association and for seminars. These reports have received wide coverage in the press and were presented to the evaluation of international mechanisms and received appreciation. See for the report, presented to Europe Against Racism and Intolerance,:  “Crimes Of Discrimination, Racism and Hatred in Turkey”. Also see: Turkish Daily News, Discrimination and intolerance in Turkey, Monday, September 12, 2005 for a press report.
  • Human Rights Agenda Association have accomplished the application of three new projects, two of which have been approved and the last one is under examination:
  • Reforming Penal Code: A project was proposed to the National Endowment for Democracy (USA) to eliminate those sections of the newly accepted Turkish Penal Code that are in violation with human rights, thus improving the Penal Code to the level of international human rights standards. Project has been approved by the National Endowment for Democracy and the work is underway.
  • Prevention of Torture: Human Rights Agenda Association in partnership with Helsinki Citizens Assembly has proposed the EU a project of “Strategic Mapping of Torture  in Turkey in order to Prevent it”. Project has been approved by the EU and prepatory work is underway.
  • Human Rights Education for Teachers: Based on Richard Pierre Claude’s book “POPULAR EDUCATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: 24 Participatory Exercises for Facilitators and Teachers”, a project of  workshops for teachers in 10 cities, has been proposed to KIOS Foundation in Finland. Negotiations are underway.
  • News of Project work was spread to other cities and lawyers from other cities specially in the Aegean Region demanded from HRAA similiar education work to be organised in the cities of Manisa, Aydın and Çanakkale.
  • Membership of HRAA increased and a HRAA representative for Ankara has been appointed.
  • Amnesty International a sister organisation and a partner group which struggles for human rights worlwide has a Izmir branch who have used our offices when available  for their education meetings. This has been an example of soldarity between two human rights organisations. Thus Human Rights Agenda Association developed its own capacity as well as helping others to do the same.

Finally, Human Rights Agenda Association is grateful to Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ankara for supporting the project. HRAA think that if Royal Netherlands Embassy’s support for the project of “Seminars to Convey Information and Experience on Domestic Application of Supranational Human Rights” continiues, new achievements will follow. The continiuation of their support will not only contribute to the development of HRAA but to the improvement of democracy and human rights in Turkey.
Detailed description of the applying organization/applicants 
Human Rights Agenda Association (HRAA) was set up in Izmir in 2003 by prominent human rights defenders coming from all parts of Turkey with the purpose of working in both Turkey and abroad. HRAA, which sees human rights as a value on and above all political ideologies and concerns, believes that human rights may be promoted provided a deep understanding is developed as to the sources of the problems and on condition that new tactics and strategies are being developed to tackle these problems.  HRAA categorically refuses every kind of violence regardless the identity of the author and no matter  what kind of justification he/she raises. In this vein, HRAA condemns human rights violations which are committed by armed opposition groups as well as those committed by the states.
Relevant Articles of the Statute of  the Human Rights Agenda Association are as follows:
The Human Rights Agenda Association Statute (extracts-definitive articles)

Name and Headquarters of the Association
Article 1 – The name of the organization is “The Human Rights Agenda Association”. The organization is based in İzmir. The organization can open brunches in and out of the country. It can join the national/international federations, confederations or similar organizations within and without the country.

Purpose of the Association
Article 2 – The purpose of the association is to act without discriminating any religion, language, gender or sexual orientation, race or nationality identities; to accept the human rights values over any political ideology and perspective; to advance and accept The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of UN, The European Convention of Human Rights and rest of the other international human rights conventions, documents, values and to practice of the human rights, develop and advance human rights values and combat human rights violations.

The Scope and the Forms of the Association’s Activities
Article 3 – The association may work in all areas that it sees necessary for the advancement of human rights and freedoms, and the human rights law and democracy.
In order to fulfill its objective, the association may:

  • To do all kinds of research and study on human rights and freedoms and the human rights law and democracy;
  • To organize open discussions, conferences, seminars, panels, symposiums, meetings and demonstrations alike, concerts, exhibitions; publish materials, organize competitions, give awards that are relevant to the association’s objective; to open research and development centers and similar institutions in line with its objective, to establish commercial enterprises to fulfill the objective in Article 2;
  • To organize campaigns, to run joint activities and meetings by itself or with other organizations that it decides to cooperate;
  • To establish and run facilities for accommodation, recreation, leisure or social-cultural activities;
    e) To cooperate and collaborate with other private or public institutions and organizations at home or abroad;
  • To buy or sell, rent or let, all kinds of movable or real property, to have legal administration on all real property;

g) To run project based activities, to convey national and international projects, to receive and give funds to and from national and international organizations in line with the objective of the association;
h) To collect aid and donations according to the Law of Collecting Donations and relevant legislation;
i)To employ and dismiss staff.

Detailed description of the implementing organization/applicants (if other than mentioned under 4.)

Project description
To broaden the perspectives of lawyers in supranational human rights law, increase their knowledge and skills, encourage lawyers to take initiatives through domestic mechanisms thus helping the European Convention of Human Rights and other international conventions to be implemented in the coutry. Besides, to create a model for other regions to follow.

Article 90 of the Constitution, gives international conventions (human rights conventions that are ratified by Turkish Grand National Assembly) the power of law with priority over domestic law. Thus there is no problem on paper. However there are problems in parctice. Implementation of European Court of Human Rights rulings are hindered. The main reason for this is psychological.  For in the minds of members of legal profession there exists a dichotmy of “domestic” and “foreign”, “Turkish judiciary” and “Strasbourg judiciary”.
This duality omits the fact that those are part of the same thing and law is universal. If one reason for not applying the universal approach is the attitude of national authorities (resistance of judges and prosecutors), the other reason is lack of demand from lawyers due to inadequate knowledge. It is nobody else but lawyers who could generate such demand. Thus lawyers have a key role to play. Mental blockage, habits and inadequate knowledge of lawyers prevent them from generating the demand. Even after lawyers internalize the fact that ECHR and Strasbourg jurisprudence are not alien but national documents, it will not be easy to berak the resistance of judicial authorities. For then it will be the turn of judges and prosecutors to internalize it. Thus HRAA aims to produce a model project for the rest of the country to help break this blockage.

The main purpose of the project is to make norms of ECHR and jurispurdence of the European Court of Human Rights to be implemented through national legislation thus solving problems in front of national authorities, without the need to refer to Strasbourg. This project will improve implementation skills of lawyers. Participants will be introduced to new perspectives and experiences in international law will be shared. The project will contribute to educate lawyers to make “fair trial”, stated in article 36 of the Constitution, to be put in practice. Participating lawyers will be able to use the knowledge they acquire, in their own cases as well as convey it for the use of other lawyers.

With support from the Embassy, through 2005 project designed for 100 lawyers, 75 lawyers in three groups have accomplished their education so far. 100 lawyers will have accomplished the education by the end of 2005. What differentiates this work from previous educational work undertaken in Turkey is that it does not focus on conveying theoretical knowledge only but it aims implementation. Results of the project so far clearly show that the project has a vital importance for the country and it is possible to influence the implementation even if slowly. First of all project generated a change/improvement in participants’ approaches to the issue. Participants not only increased their knowledge but also improved their legal skills. As the evaluation forms of the seminars presented to the Embassy show, participants stated: “Their vision have been broadened, they acquired a new perspective of their profession, they have been encouraged to use international conventions, they have begun using those conventions in their case applications and in their demands, and all this would help to generalize the use of the conventions.”

It has been observed that a sense of being in a group and acting as one is an important factor for the success of the project. The participants have said that when they individually act or demand the implementation of ECHR they hold back from judges (for fear of coming to harm), yet they have stated that through common work they do not feel alone and it gives them courage. In fact domestic courts take the issue more seriously and act accordingly when more than one lawyer raise similiar demands. Therefore in order to succeed in practice it is best to increase the number of participants as much as possible.

Every participant usually exchanges information with at least 3-4 colleagues everyday. In evironments where lawyers spend time together these sort of exchanges take place even more. Participants have said that when they shared what they gained through the education with other colleuges others showed interest. Number of applications to the association (which exceeded the number of available places) proves this point. Some lawyers who could not participate the education work due to lack of places have applied to the association, asking for a repetition of the program.
The conferences delivered by experts have constituted a big step for participants to develop a fundemental perspective on human rights. The conference titles and speakers include:

Constitutional Court and Human Rights,  Prof. Mustafa Erdoğan

Turkey’s EU Process and NGOs,  Feray Salman

Domestic Applicability of ECHR and role of the judges,  Associate Prof. Dr. Osman Can;  Constitutional Court Rapporteur

Freedom of Thought,  Şanar Yurdatapan

Human Rights Movement in Turkey, Yılmaz Ensarioğlu

Turkish Grand National Assembly Human Rights Rewiev Committee,  Faruk Ünsal


From the 1st. Group onwards, participants and volunteering members of the association, have worked together on drawing a report which compares recently passed Turkish Penal Code and ECHR legislation. During summer period, volunteering participants met every week to discuss the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights including the ones on freedom of thought and expression, right to fair trial, civil rights and liabilities, individual freedom and safety, discrimination, property rights, prohibition of torture. The legislation was made available and shared on the web first and were discussed at summer meetings later on. These discussions helped participants to develop an understanding and skills of domestic applicability of those articles.

If this project is approved, the number of people receive education will reach up to 200, including the first project. If multiplier effect is taken into consideration, there will be hundreds of lawyers who have been influenced by the project who will be demanding that national authorities to implement ECHR rulings. This showes that this education work aiming to change the national implementation practice has a good chance of success.
This educational work which aims to change the implementation in Turkey exceeds the powers of our association. In fact the bar associations should undertake this task. Yet the “nationalist attitudes” of the bar associations leaves a gap which is a drawback in terms of human rights, democracy and the state of law. Thus HRAA have taken up a leading role in creating a model. The Embassy, financing our unprecedented work in this field in Turkey has made and is still making a great contribution to the advancement of human rights in Turkey.

how will the project strengthen the framework of civic society

Lawyers influence and lead their clients as well. Thus citizens will be introduced to human rights law under their influence. The other international conventions which acquired the status of national legilsation under ECHR will be conveyed to the participants. The courts are the final destination to resolve all legal matters. Therefore courts play an important role in society. Their rulings are binding. If they implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and other international conventions it will lead to putting in practice of “the principal of democratic society” by the hands of the courts. Court rulings will open up the way for the society. It will contribute to the advancement of democratic culture and trustworthiness of legal system. Legal assurance of freedom of expression and association will be an additional guarantee for the society.

Adopting and implementing fundemental principals of a democratic society such as  individual freedom, rights to fair trial, freedom of expression and association, protection of private life and property rights will contribute to social stability and peace. Societies’ confidence in justice system will grow stronger if the right to fair trial is applied effectively. All these would also accelerate the process of integration into the EU.

target group

Practicing lawyers in Izmir and a small number of legal apprentices.
As mentioned earlier the project has a multiplier effect. Thus participants will be determined carefully and great care will be taken to make sure that they are “key persons”.

Through education work it will be aimed to train and encourage lawyers to a level where they can use their knowledge and experience in courts, argue in front of judges and prosecutors and insist on their demands. Participants will gain new practical skills. Experiences of international law will be conveyed to them, improving their “self confidence” based on superior knowledge.

It is aimed to educate 100 lawyers in 4 groups, each group having 25 people. There are approximately 5000 lawyers in Izmir, between 3500 – 4000 of those are in active practice. The target group of the project is practicing lawyers who frequently appear in courts representing their clients. Depending on the applications, care will be given to make sure that the number of male and female participants are equal. Older and more experienced lawyers have more influence on the judges, thus lawyers from this group will be included in the work. Yet the fact that 2/3 of all lawyers are young lawyers will be taken into account.
Besides, every year around 500 apprentice lawyers take up their training in the bar association in Izmir. They need the education to begin their professional life with a new and progressive mentality instead of the mentality of old and traditionalist practice. Thus a small number of apprentice lawyers will be included in the program.

Participants will submit a written commitment that they will

  • Attend all education work,
  • Try to put in practice the knowledge and experience they gain, while working with legal and administrative institutions,
  • They are willing to meet with other participants at intervals to exchange information and experiences after the education work is complete.

project activities

The education advisors of the project will be Law. Mehmet Nur TERZİ and Law. Orhan Kemal CENGİZ. The implementing coordinator will be Law. Özlem YILMAZ.

Education Advisors

Mehmet Nur TERZİ, 
He is involved in Human Rights law since 1995 and is handling several cases in the European Court of Human Rights. He was a founding member of Human Rights Center, set up in 1995 under Izmir Bar Association and worked as coordinator of the education project, supported by EC in 1996. He is the education coordinator of present HRAA project.

Orhan Kemal CENGİZ
 Member of Izmir Bar Association. He is the president of Human Rights Agenda Association. He worked as managing director of Human Rights Center of Izmir Bar Association in 1996, and worked in London between 1997-1998 on European Court of Human Right cases.

Field of Duty: Determining the contents and the direction of education work and its coordination, coordinating educators and providing advocacy on problems.

Implementing Coordinator

Özlem YILMAZ A practicing lawyer and a member of Izmir Bar Association. She has been providing education on human rights law for lawyers, policemen, civil cervants and students since 1998. She was a member of executive comittee of İzmir Bar Association between 2002 and 2004, she acted in the same period as the coordinator in charge of Human Rights Center and Children’s Rights Commision.

Field of Duty: Determining the contents and the method of education and its coordination, communicating with educators and participants, organising seminars, preparing the lists of educators and participants, checking attendance, recording the project, preparing documents, drawing up perodical reports, public relations, directing feedbacks and communication, providing documentation and supplies, travel organisation for guests from other cities, dealing with all problems related to the implementation of the project.

All secretarial work

Keeping accounts and reporting, handling the tax matters

Creating an e-mail list for members, the number of which will reach to 200 after completion of the education work. Moderating and maintaining membership, providing technical assistance to members, placing exemplary rulings and application lettrers on the web.

Education will take place in three phases, there will be 4 groups each consisting of 25 people. In education work

  • Presentations will be supported by visual material.
  • A copy of written presentations will be given to each participant.
  • “Active education methods” will be used to encourage participants to take part in sessions.
  • European Court of Human Rights Convention and its legislation will be conveyed to participants not only as theoretical knowledge but in the form of practical information applicable in domestic law.
  • Participants will be encouraged and motivated to get rid of dualism of national and international legislation.
  • Participants will be encouraged to express their own professional experiences to include those in the education program and in the presentations of educators.
  • Level of education will be made sure to comply with the standards.

1st. Phase;
Expert lawyers/educators will provide education, 5 hours per week for 4 weeks, 20 hours in total.  Subjects and hours:

The scope of ECHR and its place in domestic law                    1 hour
ECHR Article 3                                                                      2 hours
ECHR Articel 5                                                                      3 hours
ECHR Article 6                                                                      5 hours
Ammended Protocol I, Article 1 (Property rights)                       1 hour
ECHR Article 8                                                                       2 hours
ECHR Articles 9 and10                                                           2 hours
International Conventions and their mechanisms                       4 hours
(Subjects will be selected among those listed below)
Immigration law
Environmental law
EU Institutions and Law
European Constitution
Discrimination Law
European Court of Justice  (Luxembourg court)
International Criminal Court
UN Civil and political Rights Convenant
UN Economic and Social Rights Convenant

2nd. Phase 
Participants who accomplish the 1st. Phase will take part in a “ruling debate” in the form of a virtual court session, overseen by the educator. Each group will have an educator, (and when necessary, an assitant educator who has previously given presentation for previous groups). Groups of six people (one of them seven) will be divided into three parts representing “The Applicant”, “The Government” and “The Court”. Thus each participant will make a presentation. These groups will choose a ruling of European Court of Human Rights on Turkey which made an effect on legal structure. A court case similiar to one in Strasbourg court will be reenacted. The applicant and the government will put forward their respective arguments and the court will make a decision and it will give a detailed explanation of its ruling. Thus those participants who do not take part in presenting the ruling will find out the details of that particular ruling. In the preparation phase those participants who will present the ruling will learn the Strasbourg court’s interpretation of the case, its approach to the judicial discretion of local courts and domestic law, its reasoning for upholding the convention over domestic law, its method of assessing the evidences, its approach to violations, logic and systematic proceedings of the case in brief. Details which would be lost in an ordinary reading will be caught. Participants will be able take advise from the educator while preparing the presentation of the ruling, and the educator will intervene when necessary, to add missing points or correct errors. The participants other than who make the presentation will express their ideas and interpretations.
This method tested in the ongoing education work proved to be successful in learning and conveying information. Participants have expressed that they liked this part of education best.

Exemplary Rulings:
Öcalan, Elçi and others, Leyla Şahin ,Öneryıldız (İstanbul damping ground case), Bergama case,
Sadak, Zana and others, Büker, Refah (Welfare) Party, Sakık and others, Müslüm Gündüz, GÖÇ (IMMIGRATION),  Z / Finland, Lukanov / Bulgaria  etc.
Ruling debates, will take place once a week for 4 weeks, each lasting for 2 hours.

3rd. Phase
Meetings to broaden the perspective
These meetings will take place in the form of a conference. Distinguished expert figures will convey knowledge and experience on various topics (human rights, law, philosophy, politics, the media etc.) which will broaden the horizons of participants and introduce them to new approaches. These will take place twice.

Evaluation Meeting

There will be an evaluation meeting in the last week of 8 week long education work to evaluate the presentations in terms of their contents and methods. Questionnaires will be distributed for evaluation. There will be discussions on the ways to use the acquired knowledge in the frame of national law, conclusions will be published in the mail list, on the web. Those participants who accomplish education work will be given sertificates. Participants will meet at intervals to exchange information and experiences.

Time frame

Each group work will last 8 weeks. Previous education work has proved that intensified education in short time (ie 1 or 2 weeks) produce effective results in the short term but is less effective in the long term. Thus a longer period is needed to assimilate the knowledge and to put it in practice.
That is the reason for preferring a 8 weeks period. The 1st. Phase will last for 4 weeks, 5 hours of education every week, 20 hours in total; 2 hours on Fridays and 3 hours on Saturdays. The second phase will last for 4 weeks too. For participants will need time to prepare their presentations. The ruling debates will take place on Fridays and last for 2 hours. In the 3rd. Phase, conferences will take place twice, on Saturdays. These will take place in the time frame of the 2nd. Phase.

The education work will take place with 25 people each time and will be repeated 4 times.   Thus it will take 32 weeks to complete the work of 4 groups. Seminar dates:

5th. group
1st. week         20-21  January 2006
2nd. week        28-29  January 2006
3rd. week         03-04  February 2006
4th. week         10-11  February 2006
5th. week         17-18  February 2006
6th. week         24-25  February 2006
7th.week          03-04   March  2006
8th.week          10-11   March 2006

6th. group
1st. week         17-18  March  2006
2nd. week        24-25  March  2006
3rd. week         31 March – 01 April 2006
4th. week         07-08  April 2006
5th. week         14-15  April 2006
6th. week         21-22  April  2006
7th.week          28-29  April 2006
8th.week          05-06  May 2006

7th. group
1st. week         08-09 September 2006
2nd. week        15-16 September  2006
3rd. week         22-23 September 2006
4th. week         29-30 September  2006
5th. week         06-07 September 2006
6th. week         13-14 October 2006
7th. week         20-21 October 2006
Interval for public holiday
8th.week          03-04 November 2006

8th. group
1st. week         10-11 November 2006
2nd week         17-18 November 2006
3rd. week         24-25 November 2006
4th. week         01-02 December  2006
5th. week         08-09 December  2006
6th. week         15-16 December  2006
7th. week         23-24 December  2006
8th.week          29-30 December  2006

Sustainability of the project
There are 5 thousand registered lawyers in Izmir. This project will be run for the second 100 people. If multiplier effect taken into consideration, 500 lawyers on average will be influenced by the project in one way or another. Besides through e-mail group many more lawyers can be reached. Nevertheless to get effective results in short term a high number of lawyers need to go through the education. It is possible to do this due to adequate number of educators.