The top European court of human rights ruled on Thursday that Greece had violated rights of seven Turks living in Evros (Meric in Turkish) prefecture via a court decision for closure of a nonprofit making association in 1996.
The Greek national applicants, Hasan Bekir Usta and his six friends, set up the "Evros Prefecture Minority Youth Association" together in 1995 with other members of the Turkish-Muslim minority in Western Thrace. The association sought, in particular, "to harness the intellectual potential of young people belonging to the minority; safeguard and promote minority traditions; develop relations between its members; and protect democracy, human rights and friendship especially between the Greek and Turkish peoples."
In March 1996 the Greek courts rejected an application to have the association registered, pointing out that the Treaty of Lausanne recognized only a Muslim, not a Turkish, minority in Western Thrace. The applicants challenged the decision rejecting their application before the Greek courts without success and appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in 1996.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that "even assuming that the true aim of the association had been to promote the idea that an ethnic minority existed in Greece, that did not amount to a threat to a democratic society."
The court said: "There was nothing in the association's articles of association to suggest that its members advocated the use of violence or anti-democratic methods. Furthermore, the Greek courts had the power to order that an association be dissolved if its aims were contrary to the law or at variance with those set forth in its articles of association," and held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 11 covering right to freedom of assembly and association. It further held that the finding of a violation constituted in itself sufficient justification for the non-pecuniary damage sustained. ( TZ )