B.E, Application No: 2012/625, 9 January 2014
On 26 January 2015, an investigation in relation to the applicant was started. In 2009, the office of the military prosecutor reached a finding of non-competence and sent the file to the office of the public prosecutor. The criminal case which was started in 2012 against the applicant ended on 17 October 2012 with a discontinuance decision on the ground that the limitation period had expired.
The Applicant claimed that the proceedings were not concluded within a reasonable time.
B) Judgment and Reasoning of the Court
The Constitutional Court, considering the claims of the applicant under the right to a trial within a reasonable time, stated that the said right fell within the scope of Article 36 of the Constitution and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). According to the Court, the purpose of the right to a trial within a reasonable time is to protect parties from the material and non-material pressure they may be exposed to due to the length of the proceedings and to protect the belief in law. The said right covers, along with disputes concerning civil rights and obligations, criminal charges. The Court, after reiterating the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case law that a criminal charge consists of an official notification to a person of the claim that s/he committed an offence, expressed that in determination of whether an accusation constitutes a criminal charge, the classification, nature, severity of the sentence and procedure provided under national law shall be taken into consideration. It was evident that the case at hand included a criminal charge and fell within the scope of the right to a fair trial.
The Constitutional Court also stated that the beginning of the period to be considered in determination of a reasonable time was the moment in which the criminal charge was directed to that person and the end thereof was the date on which a final decision on the criminal charge was made. Whether the starting point occurred before the beginning of the Constitutional Court’s jurisdiction ratione temporis was of no importance, thus the Court made an evaluation on the whole of the proceedings.
The proceedings concerning the applicant lasted for 7 years, 3 month and 27 days. The Court, pointing out this length of time is not reasonable, stated that the structure of the system or structural issues such as workload and the lack of organization may have played a role in the prolongation of the proceedings and in that case due to the obligation of the state to regulate its judicial system in line with the requirements of a fair trial, the responsibility of the competent authorities might come into question.
In conclusion, the Constitutional Court ruled that no factors such as the complexity of the case, number of suspects or attitude of the applicant caused the prolongation of the proceedings, thus the right to a trial within a reasonable protected under Article 36 of the Constitution was violated.
C) Significance of the Judgment
The B.E. judgment of the Constitutional Court demonstrates that the ECtHR case law is to be followed in determination of the concept of criminal charge and constitutes a source of
reference in criminal proceedings relating to reasonable time. In addition, it is striking that the Court stated that reasons such as structural problems, workload and lack of personnel could not be used as excuse and that the judicial system should be regulated with such problems in mind.