STRASBOURG, France (AFP)–Professor Taner Ak?am, a Turkish scholar and Visiting Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights against the Republic of Turkey, independent correspondent Jean Eckian informs.
The complaint is based on the criminal investigation launched against him earlier this year under Turkish Penal Code Article 301, for insulting "Turkishness" by having publicly used the term "genocide" to describe the mass murder of Armenia’s in 1915.
Despite its changed wording over time, Article 301 remains prominent among the many enduring obstacles in Turkey?s path to membership of the European Union. The same law has in recent years been the basis for the prosecution of other leading Turkish intellectuals, writers, journalists and academics on similar grounds. The most notable victims of Article 301 include Nobel Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk, recently assassinated Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, and publisher Fatih Tas.
The Court, based in Strasbourg, France, enforces the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It rules over private individuals? complaints against human rights violations committed by signatory States. Turkey signed the Convention in 1954.
"Facing history and coming to terms with past human rights abuses is not a crime but a prerequisite for peace and reconciliation in the region," says Professor Ak?am. "My goal is to help Turkey realize its full potential to evolve into a truly free and democratic society. This cannot happen if Turkey continues to criminalize academic discussion." His legal team is headed by Dr. Payam Akhavan, former UN war crimes prosecutor and professor of international law at McGill University in Montreal. "In a world where Holocaust denial is a crime, state-sanctioned denial of genocide is all the more reproachable," says Dr. Akhavan. "Limitations on freedom of speech should apply to hate speech, not to speech against hate."
The Court will examine Professor Ak?am’s application and rule on its admissibility within one year. If the application is declared admissible, the Court will then encourage the parties to reach a friendly settlement. Only if no settlement can be reached will the Court consider whether or not there has been a violation of the Convention. Should the Court find that there has been such violation, it will deliver a judgment which will legally bind Turkey to comply.