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Europe rights court finds Turkish voting laws too restrictive

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Tuesday found [judgment] that voting restrictions for convicted persons in Turkey are too harsh and in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Soyler, a Turkish national who was sentenced to five years for drawing checks without having sufficient funds, brought the suit after he was not allowed to vote in the 2011 Turkish general elections even after his conditional release from prison in 2009. Turkish law dictates that convicted persons are unable to vote while serving their sentences, with disenfranchisement continuing until the end of the period of the original sentence, regardless of early release from prison on probation. A unanimous court found that the automatic and indiscriminate ban on prisoners' voting rights violated Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human rights, which ensures the right to free elections, and "had to be seen as falling outside any acceptable margin of maneuver of a State to decide on such matters as the electoral rights of convicted prisoners." The judgment will become final after three months, if a party does not request further examination from the ECHR's Grand Chamber.

Turkey has recently received criticism regarding human rights, particularly following the violent protests that began in Istanbul this summer. In July the Council of Europe (COE) Commissioner for Human Rights urged an investigation [JURIST report] into Turkey's "extremely disproportionate" use of police force against anti-government protesters. In June the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Turkish government to ensure the rights of its citizens [JURIST report] to assemble freely and in a peaceful manner. Earlier in June the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights commended the Turkish government's decision to delay government construction that was being protested by Turkish citizens and urged authorities to work to defuse tensions [JURIST report]. Also in June, the Human Rights Watch called on Turkish police to use non-violent tactics [JURIST report] against citizen protests.

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