European court rules against Turkey in paraplegic student’s university access human rights dispute

Judges have ruled against Turkey in a human rights dispute which centred on  a paraplegic student’s access to university buildings.

In its 30 January  Chamber judgment in the case of Enver Şahin v. Turkey (application no. 23065/12) the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of six votes to one, that there had been:

a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights, read in conjunction with Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education).

The case concerned the impossibility for a paraplegic person (Enver Şahin) to gain access to the university buildings for the purpose of his studies owing to the lack of suitable facilities.

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction), the court held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 10,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,952 in respect of costs and expenses.

The Court found in particular that the Government had not demonstrated that the national authorities, and in particular the university and judicial authorities, had reacted with the requisite diligence in order to ensure that Şahin could continue to enjoy his right to education on an equal footing with other students.

Firstly, a proposal by the rector’s office to provide a person to assist him had not been made following an assessment of Mr Şahin’s actual needs and an honest appraisal of the potential impact on his safety, dignity and independence.

Secondly, the domestic courts had not ascertained whether a fair balance had been struck between the competing interests of the applicant (his educational needs) and of society as a whole.

Furthermore, they had omitted to look for possible solutions that would have enabled the applicant to resume his studies under conditions as close as possible to those provided to students with no disability, without imposing an undue or disproportionate burden on the administration.


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