Intervention on Academic Freedom at the European Court of Human Rights

On 20 December 2021, a coalition of academics, including Utrecht Law School researchers Antoine Buyse and Kushtrim Istrefi, submitted a third party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in the so-called 'Academics for Peace' cases.

A third party intervention is a text which aims to assist the European Court of Human Rights in its work. As a result, it is also often known as an Amicus Curiae or "friend of the Court" brief. Organisations or (groups of) persons can submit such an intervention, but only with permission from the Court. This is usually done in cases of major importance.

Academic freedom in Turkey

The background of these cases is the following: in the wake of the failed coup d'état of July 2016, the Turkish Government has employed emergency measures not only to re-establish peace and order, and to deal with those directly responsible for the coup d'état, but also to silence and in many cases attack, among others, journalists, academics or minorities. These systemic attacks undermine the overall academic freedom in Turkey.

'Academics for Peace' cases

This currently pending group of applications before the European Court of Human Rights, the 'Academics for Peace' cases (Kamuran AKIN v. Turkey and 42 other applications, application nos. 72796/16, 72798/16, 72799/16 et al.), illustrate this. The cases concern a group of academics from different Turkish universities who on 11 January 2016 issued a statement entitled “We will not be a party to this crime” which critically questioned the Turkish Government’s role in the conflict in South-East Turkey and the associated serious human rights violations. President Erdoğan accused them of treason, and hundreds of academics, including the applicants, were then dismissed from their university positions through a series of emergency decrees. 

Third Party Intervention

The third-party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights addresses the connection of the case with academic freedom, and to elaborate the importance of academic freedom in and for the Convention system. 

Antoine Buyse and Kushtrim Istrefi are based at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) and the research programs of Montaigne and UCALL respectively at Utrecht University Law School.