Turkey: Women’s access to justice to protect their human rights and the environment is compromised

The ICJ presented today its written submissions to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) ahead of its consideration of the periodic review by Turkey on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

In its submissions, the ICJ the ICJ expressed concern at Turkey’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) and its implications on the prevention of, protection against and response to violence against women in the country; and at the lack of access to justice and effective remedies for violations of women’s human rights, particularly in the context of the ongoing deterioration of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Turkey, and of environmental human rights challenges.

The ICJ therefore formulated the following recommendations:

On Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention:

  1. Reverse its decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention.
  2. Strengthen the existing domestic legal framework and mechanisms for preventing, responding to and remedying violence against women, and to take serious action in cases of femicide and other serious violations of women’s human rights.

On the rule of law and access to justice and effective remedies:

  • Take decisive measures to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, including by amending the Constitution to put in place safeguards to insulate decision-making about the judiciary and its function from executive influence.
  1. Reform key judicial institutions, such as the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, to ensure their independence from the executive, and to ensure the independence of the legal profession.
  2. End executive interference in judicial matters, since it poses a real risk to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
  3. Put in place independent mechanisms to ensure and support access to justice and effective remedies for violations of women’s human rights, particularly marginalized and at-risk women, including in relation to violence against women and other serious human rights violations.
  • Take specific measures to ensure women’s access to justice, including reviewing the existing legal framework; putting in place legal literacy and awareness-raising measures among women to educate them about their human rights, including their right to access justice and effective remedies; ensuring affordable access to legal and administrative services, including legal aid; and develop and scrupulously implement measures to prevent reprisals and other harassment of women, including women human rights defenders.
  • Continue monitoring the situation of the rule of law and independence of the judiciary in Turkey, in general, and in relation to particular reforms required to strengthen access to justice for women.

On access to justice and effective remedies in environmental matters:

  1. Specifically assess issues related to access to justice, transparency and corruption in environmentally significant decision-making, with a particular focus on women’s access to justice and effective remedies in the context of existing or potential environmental harm.
  2. Consider reforming the system of individual applications to the Constitutional Court so as to include all rights guaranteed by the Turkish Constitution, including the right to a healthy environment.
  3. Ensure that major construction projects having a significant effect on human rights and the environment should only proceed following an effective and participative and accessible environmental, health and human rights impact assessment, and that any person or entity expressing an interest in the protection of the environment and the potential harm arising from the project has the right to access to the administrative courts to challenge the project and its assessment both in terms of procedure and merit. Furthermore, Turkey should put in place a system integrating independent Health Impact Assessments, in compliance with international standards, into legislation to prevent serious negative effects of climate change and environmental harm on the health of individuals.

Read the submission: Turkey-CEDAW-ICJSubmission-ShadowReport-ENG-2022


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