The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has decided to send a long-awaited warning letter to Greece, which has not implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) made 15 years ago regarding the violations against the Turkish community of Western Thrace. This development has been appreciated by Western Thracian Turks.
Greece’s Western Thrace region in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border, is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority of 150,000 people, or around a third of the population.
The rights of the Turks of Western Thrace were guaranteed under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, but since then the situation has steadily deteriorated. After a Greek junta came to power in 1967, the Turks of Western Thrace faced harsher persecution and rights violation by the Greek state, often in blatant violation of European court rulings.
The Turkish minority in Greece continues to face problems exercising its collective civil and education rights, including Greek authorities banning the word “Turkish” in the names of associations, shutting down Turkish schools and trying to block the Turkish community from electing its own muftis. Bekir Usta applied to the court in 1996 after a Greek court shut down a youth association belonging to the Western Thrace Turkish community in 1995, claiming in his application that the association was founded to defend the view that Turks are an ethnic minority.
In the statement made by the Xanthi (Iskeçe) Turkish Union, the importance of the Council of Europe’s decision to send a warning letter to the Greek authorities was emphasized, and the implementation of the ECtHR decisions regarding the Western Thrace Turkish minority associations was requested.
In light of the latest decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe regarding Greece, it was also emphasized that the Turkish union has struggled for years to ensure basic rights and has made efforts to end the victimization. The union demanded the country comply with international and European Union law and fully implement the decisions of the ECtHR, urging Greece to take concrete steps to restore its legal status and legal personality.
It was also noted that Greece’s insistence on not implementing the ECtHR decisions will continue to pose a major obstacle to the establishment of trust between the Western Thracian Turkish Minority and the Greek state.
The fact that Greece has not implemented verdicts where it has been convicted of human rights contraventions for over 15 years in cases bought to the ECtHR by Greece’s Western Thrace Turks, has led to reactions by minority representatives. The ECtHR had ruled Greece violated Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of assembly and association.
In a meeting held in Strasbourg on Dec. 6-8, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe noted that the freedom of association of the Xanthi Turkish Union, the Rhodope Province Turkish Women’s Cultural Association and the Meriç (Maritsa) Minority Youth Association has been violated by Greece and that the ECtHR decisions have not been implemented for 15 years.
At the meeting, the committee decided to send a warning letter to the Greek authorities regarding their contraventions, albeit a decade and a half late.
Source: Daily Sabah