IBA Calls for End to Dismantling of Judiciary, and Reinstatement of Judges in Turkey

28 Jul, 2016

The dismantling and restructuring of Turkey’s judiciary by the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in direct contravention of international legal norms and principles, as well as Article 138 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, and must end, states the International Bar Association (IBA).

Further, the IBA leadership calls on President Erdogan to reinstate recently dismissed judges and prosecutors, including two members of the Constitutional Court and ten members of Turkey’s highest administrative court.

As the culling of judges, prosecutors, journalists and members of other organs that constitute a democratic society continues, following the attempted coup of 15 July, and the space in which Turkey’s citizens can voice dissent evaporates, IBA President David W Rivkin calls for President Erdogan to halt the arrests and limit the damage to the proper administration of justice in Turkey caused by his actions.

Mr Rivkin commented: “President Erdogan’s fierce and unrelenting assault on Turkey’s democratic institutions in violation of international law and the nation’s Constitution has removed any credibility for his actions. The arbitrary job dismissals, suspensions and arrests of more than 60,000 Turkish citizens in under a week, the imposed three-month state of emergency and the intention to re-instate the death penalty are extreme by any measurement, and chilling in the absence of judicial recourse.”

He added: “Turkey’s own Constitution states that judges ‘shall be independent in the discharge of their duties… No organ, authority, office or individual may give orders or instructions to courts or judges related to the exercise of judicial power’. President Erdogan should respect this clause, provide transparent evidence for the detention of individual judges or reinstate them. To the extent that judges or anyone else are charged with being members of a terrorist group, they are entitled to due process and a fair hearing. That includes allowing them to be represented by the lawyers of their choice and making sure that these lawyers are not subject to any intimidation by the government for taking on that representation.”

The IBA is receiving communications from Turkey and understands that under a new law, there will be fewer judges, and that new appointments will be carried out by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, which operates under the mandate of the Justice Ministry. Also, the new law provides that 25 per cent of members of the Council of State – Turkey’s highest administrative court – are to be presidential appointments and that all existing members of the Supreme Court and Council of State are to be dismissed and new ones appointed in pursuance with the new legislative framework.

IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis concludes: “By passing laws that will be difficult to repeal, President Erdogan’s extreme actions can only be interpreted as an abuse of power. Certainly, the attempted coup called for an immediate response, but not at the abandonment of Turkey’s Constitution nor international legal principles. As a member of the United Nations, Turkey has violated established international legal standards to which it must adhere. The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary states, ‘The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary’.”

He added: “The measures taken by President Erdogan have endangered the independence of judges and rendered the judiciary subject to political influence. This serves to undermine judicial impartiality, fundamental to ensuring the stability of Turkey’s legal institutions, and has consequently diminished public confidence in both the judiciary and the government. President Erdogan should abide by the national, regional and international law provisions that affirm the necessity of an independent judiciary.”

(Source: IBA)

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