Press Release No: Individual Application 3/17
16.03.2017

PRESS RELEASE CONCERNING THE JUDGMENT FINDING NO VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO FORM AN ASSOCIATION DUE TO CLOSURE OF AN ASSOCIATION ENGAGING IN COCK FIGHTING

On 22 February 2017, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found no violation of the freedom to association, which is safeguarded by Article 33 of the Constitution, in the individual application lodged by the Hint Aseel Animals Protection and Training Association and Hikmet Neğuç (no. 2014/4711).

The Facts

In the present case lodged by the Hint Aseel Animals Protection and Training Association (“the Association”)operating in the province of Düzce and its chair Hikmet Neğuç, the Association and its members were subject to numerous criminal investigations for organizing unauthorized Hint Aseel cocks fighting events under the Charter of the Association.

The application lodged by the Association for organizing a cock fighting event was rejected in April 2012 by the Directorate General for Nature Conservation and National Parks for being contrary to the Animal Protection Act and the Law of Associations.

However, three reports issued by the police in 2013 revealed that the applicant Association continued fighting cocks in its building in spite of this decision. A criminal case was filed by the Düzce Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against the applicant and his three friends for contravening the Law of Associations. On 12 November 2013, the Düzce Criminal Court sentenced the applicant and his three friends individually to ten months’ imprisonment and ordered dissolution of the Association. The applicant’s petition against this decision was dismissed by the Düzce Assize Court.

The Applicants’ Allegations

The applicants maintained that the Association was established in accordance with the Law and that one of its specified activities was to organize fights between Hint Aseel cocks. The applicants alleged that the police intervention in their fight events and the penalties imposed on the Association and its members were in breach of the freedom of association enshrined in Article 33 of the Constitution. The applicants requested finding of a violation and re-trial.   

The Constitutional Court’s Assessment

In brief, the Constitutional Court made the following assessments:

The applicants indicated; that although their application was rejected, they continued organizing activities, which were not permitted by the relevant administration, under the name of “event”; that these activities did not amount to an animal fighting which was prohibited by law but were a competition among animals.

It is not the Constitutional Court’s duty to make assessments of the impugned facts within the scope of the criminal law. In both the police reports and the relevant court’s decisions, it is acknowledged that the activity engaged in by the applicants is animal fighting. Nevertheless, the applicants failed demonstrate what kind of “an event” their activity was in the proceedings before the Constitutional Court. Therefore, there is no ground for disregarding the fact that the Association engaged in animal fighting described in the Animals Protection Act.

The applicants maintained that in certain circumstances, cock events should be allowed as a part of cultural heritage. However, the present application relates not to the matter of permitting for a traditional sports competition where all kinds of inspection and control measures have been taken, but to the closure of an association found to organize cock fighting events in an illegal and uncontrolled manner. In this respect, the relevant court’s assessment as to the fact that the association’s field of activity comprises of acts and actions contrary to the Animals Protection Act was found justified.

Besides, it must be acknowledged that, irrespective of differences of opinion on animal-human relationships, it is both morally and legally wrong to abuse animals merely for making fun or getting pleasure. It is out of question to consider such an abuse necessary.

Accordingly, it was observed that the competent courts decided on the most reasonable sanction on the matter. Regard being had to the fact that it is the legislator’s authority to determine the penalty prescribed in the laws for the imputed offence and to the margin of appreciation afforded to the courts, it was concluded that closure of the Association and subjecting the other applicant to probation for a certain period by suspending his imprisonment sentence were necessary and proportionate in a democratic society. 

Consequently, the Constitutional Court found no violation of the applicants’ freedom of association safeguarded by Article 33 of the Constitution.

This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.

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