Dilek Kurban

Winner Dissertation Prize 2019

The Limits of Transnational Justice: The European Court of Human Rights, Turkey and the Kurdish Conflict.

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Bruno de Witte & Prof. dr. Monica Claes
Nomination: Maastricht University, Faculty of Law (International Law)

Report by the selection committee

According to the jury, this thesis can best be described as “bold”. It focuses on the crucial issue of what an international organ like the European Court of Human Rights (EHRM) can achieve when it really matters. Not much, is the sombre conclusion. It examines ‘from the bottom up’ how, from the 1990s on, Kurdish activists have turned to the Court in Strasbourg to highlight their distressing plight, how the Court has responded to these complaints, and what effects the numerous judgements have caused. That is ultimately not much in an authoritarian state like Turkey, the author concludes. Accordingly, the conventional image of the European Court of Human Rights as a success story needs to be adjusted.

The ‘bottom up’ perspective in which the perceptions and strategies of Kurdish lawyers and activists are vividly described, in combination with a sharp analysis of secondary sources, make this an original book that amounts to more than just a ‘case study’ on the position of the Kurds. The author has translated into a razor-sharp and all-revealing argument her palpable indignation about how it is possible that the state repression of and violence against Kurds in Turkey still continues, despite almost 25 years of disputes, processes and numerous breaches. Her analysis grabs us by the throat, and the disillusionment still lingers.

The jury commends Kurban’s energetic and ruthless style of writing, and is particularly impressed that the activist character of this thesis has resulted in an excellent work of scholarship. That combination commands respect.