H.Ç. v Turkey - update and recent development

The newspaper Cyprus Today has reported that legislation is being drafted in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) by the Prime Minister's EU Co-ordination Office that, if enacted, would repeal those articles of the Penal Code that continue to criminalise male homosexual acts committed between consenting adults.

This move comes soon after the communication of the complaint in H.Ç. v Turkey by the European Court of Human Rights to the TRNC government which I reported on 4th March.

Öncel Polili, a Turkish Cypriot lawyer who, with the Human Dignity Trust, is part of the team responsible for bringing the complaint in H.Ç. v Turkey regards the proposed legislative change as a direct result of the communication of the complaint by the Court:

“It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the TRNC Parliament drafted a bill in order to repeal the relevant articles of the criminal code immediately after it was communicated to them that the HDT lodged a case to the European Court of Human Rights.”

The news has been welcomed by Marina Yannakoudakis, a UK Conservative MEP, who in 2011 received assurances from the President of TRNC, Derviş Eroğlu, that he was willing to sign a repeal of the ban on homosexuality into law.

The legislative proposals are obviously very welcome and demonstrate the importance of the Court communicating complaints to contracting states. As in previous complaints relating to sexual orientation discrimination, a communication from the Court can result in a friendly settlement prior to a review of the merits.

In many ways, the proposed legislative changes in TRNC are unsurprising. It would have been near impossible for the TRNC government to successfully defend the blanket criminalisation of male homosexual acts in the Court.

A friendly settlement in H.Ç. v Turkey does mean, however, that there is no potential for the type of evolution in ECHR jurisprudence on sexual orientation that I discussed on 6th March. This is unfortunate, because an Article 3 ruling from the Court on the criminalization of male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private would have been extremely important in the wider global context.

There is further coverage of this case on the website 76 Crimes by Colin Stewart.