Top judge urges judicial independence for rule of law
Turkey’s chief judge has urged judicial independence and impartiality for the full function of the rule of law and democracy. Zühtü Arslan, president of the Constitutional Court, emphasized the need to protect the separation of powers between the judicial, executive and legislative.
“Judicial independence is a must for the democratic rule of law. Experiences we have faced in the recent years have shown that justice should not only be independent towards the legislature and executives but also any sort of parallel structures and entities,” Arslan said in comments on the 57th anniversary of the foundation of Turkey’s highest court on April 25 in Ankara.
Arslan referred to FETÖ whose members have reportedly infiltrated various state institutions over the years, including judicial bodies and the military, and staged a coup attempt in mid-2016. Thousands of FETÖ-linked judges and prosecutors have been expelled in the aftermath of the coup.
The Turkish government’s shift into an executive presidency in mid-2018 has also brought serious changes in constitutional justice as the Constitutional Court has been authorized to check the legality of presidential decrees, Arslan said.
“The most important foundation and characteristic of the new system is the presidential decrees,” he said. The check and balance on the implementation of the new presidential system is crucial, the judge said. The court is in a process of examining the legalities of 21 presidential decrees, he said.
“The verdicts of the Constitutional Court will on the one hand, clarify the legal regime of the presidential decrees and on the other hand, will significantly shed light on the relationship between legislative, executive and judicial [branches of government],” Arslan said.
Separation of powers is not a clash of powers
Separation of powers is essential in making democracy a regime of freedoms, Arslan said. That principle has been endorsed since the last periods of the Ottoman Empire, he added.
“The principle of separation of powers, in the eyes of the Constitutional Court, does not suggest disconnection between the powers. It stipulates that the powers function in cooperation with each other by using their constitutional authorities. In this sense, separation of powers is not in any way a clash of powers,” he stated.
The top judge also underscored the importance of judicial independence in maintaining the constitutional identity of Turkey as a democratic state of rule of law.
The ceremony was attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vice President Fuat Oktay, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül and other top judicial officials as well as political party leaders, including Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
In their first encounter after the CHP leader was attacked by a nationalist mob over the weekend, Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu shook hands but without uttering any verbal greeting. President Erdoğan had earlier said there was no need for him to call Kılıçdaroğlu over the assault as he already had made a public statement condemning violence.