Robert Spano’s visit to Turkey and a specific visit to see President Erdoğan has drawn criticism from various quarters. Spano is the president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The lawyer, Dr Kerem Altıparmak, noted that Spano had worked for three years in the ECHR ‘Turkey Court’ department. He added that it was impossible for Spano to not know about the extensive human rights violations that have been taking place in Turkey.
Regarding Spano’s decision to accept an honorary doctorate from Istanbul University, Altıparmak said: ”Spano’s honorary doctorate from Istanbul University cannot be accepted on moral grounds, and it is known that academics expelled from the university via the Decree Law (KHK) will be applying to the ECHR over their dismissals. How can he accept the honorary doctorate from Istanbul University in these circumstances?”
Personally or as an institution, the ECHR should respond to these criticisms, Altıparmak noted. He appealed to Spano: ”You are at the head of a mechanism that has to make an unbiased judgement”. Altıparmak also pointed out that another purpose of Spano’s visit was ostensibly to find a solution to the large number of cases being lodged with the ECHR against Turkey. If the volume of cases does not decrease, the ECHR will face significant pressure to act.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair, Mithat Sancar, also criticized Spano’s decision to accept the honorary degree in law from Istanbul University even as Turkey was severely violating its obligations under the ECHR.
The Human Rights Association also sent a letter of protest to Spano, noting that his visit would suggest his approval of the severe human rights violations taking place in Turkey.
Academic Mehmet Altan additionally criticized Spano’s decision to receive the honorary doctorate from Istanbul University: “Despite the rulings in my favour by the Constitutional Court and the ECHR, I have still not been able to go back to my university, the one you will be receiving your honorary doctorate from”.
The European Parliament’s former Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, criticized Spano’s meeting with President Erdoğan even as she drew attention to the ‘doctorate controversy’: ”Robert Spano will receive an honorary doctorate from Istanbul University, which has expelled many academics. Think twice before damaging the credibility of the ECHR”.