The Turkish Constitutional Court recently considered a claim that a land expropriation violated the applicant's right to a fair trial due to the judgment processes lasting five years and ten months during administrative procedures. The Constitutional Court held that the applicant's rights have been violated by the judgement process not being completed within a reasonable period of time.
The applicant sought to annul a decision regarding expropriation of his land which was made for the purposes of investing in housing, industry, education, health and tourism and establishing public facilities. Before the Constitutional Court, the applicant claimed his rights to a fair trial and property rights have been violated on the basis that:
- The expropriation's purpose was not clearly stated and accordingly there were no public interests involved.
- Decisions by the court of first instance and Council of Ministers do not contain any concrete reasoning.
- Disagreements about the expropriation price mean that an expropriation performed below the property's real value would contradict the expropriation's purpose.
- A judgement on the dispute was not issued within a reasonable period of time.
Under Article 80 of the Constitution, the state and other public legal entities can expropriate private property, provided the property's real value is paid and the expropriation is made pursuant to laws and in the public interests. The Law on Land Development and Utilization empowers the Land Office General Directorate (and Housing Development Administration of Turkey ("TOKI") to expropriate land for the purposes of investing in housing, industry, education, health and tourism and establishing public facilities.
In the case at hand, the Constitutional Court held despite TOKI failing to clearly state the expropriation purpose (referring to all legislative purposes as a whole), this does not necessarily mean there are no public interests involved, nor render the expropriation illegal.
Expropriations made below the real property value will constitute an excessive interference with property rights under the proportionality principle (Article 13 of the Constitution), exceeding any intended public interests associated with the expropriation. In this case, the Constitutional Court held that no violation of property rights occurred in this respect because TOKI paid the applicant the court-determined expropriation price.
The Constitutional Court adopted a similar stance to previous decisions regarding the right to fair trial, where a judgment is not issued within a reasonable time. The Constitutional Court referred to its past decisions on the issue, as well as decisions by the European Court of Human Rights. The court held that a judgement process lasting five years and ten months constituted a violation of the applicant's right to a fair trial.
The full text of the Constitutional Court's reasoned decision (2013/395, dated 10 June 2015) was published in Official Gazette number 29479 on 18 September 2015 and can be found at this link (only available in Turkish).
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