Incoming Turkish ECHR judge aims to boost human rights in Turkey

Turkish scholar Saadet Yüksel, who will soon be the youngest judge on the European Court of Human Rights, intends to make decisions that encourage human rights in Turkey and across Europe, Hürriyet Daily News reported on Monday.

“My goal is to make rulings and undertake work that will contribute to the development of human rights,” she said in an interview with Hürriyet Daily News. “I’ve always been interested in the judicial assurance of human rights in my work.”

Elected last week as the new Turkish judge to the ECHR, the 36-year-old Yüksel will replace Işıl Karakaş, whose term ended two years ago. The Turkish government three times submitted lists of candidates to replace Karakaş, but none of them were approved by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly.

“Throughout my career, I have focused on the judicial protection of human rights, fundamental rights and the freedoms of constitutional law,” Yüksel said, also highlighting legal principles regarding democracy and the rule of law.

Critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have said the rule of law has significantly declined in Turkey in recent years. The ECHR, for its part, has attracted criticism for turning down more than 25,000 applications for rights infringements within Turkey on the grounds that the applicants had not first exhausted legal channels in the country.

Last November, the ECHR called on Turkey to immediately release Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, arguing that the extensions to his detention had been intended to stifle pluralism and political debate.

Yüksel, who will serve at the ECHR for the next nine years, gained a masters degree from Harvard University and received the Distinguished Young Scientist Award in the legal field from Turkey’s Academy of Sciences. She is currently serving as the head of the constitutional law department at Istanbul University and as a part-time faculty member at Koç University.

She recalled her father, Mehmet Edip Yüksel, a former Turkish member of parliament who was awarded for his outstanding service.

“For me, justice is a part of life. I never thought of it as a separate matter,” she said. “When you grow up in a house where justice is constantly spoken, you are influenced by something called the ‘law charm.’”