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Turkish judiciary reiterates concern over amendments

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 9/13/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Turkey's judiciary has reiterated concerns over judicial independence in the wake of Sunday’s approval of government-backed constitutional amendments. (UPDATED)

Turkey's judiciary has reiterated concerns over judicial independence in the wake of Sunday’s approval of government-backed constitutional amendments, which some allege contain articles targeting the judiciary.

“Today we are far behind the point that we were standing at yesterday,” said Kadir Özbek, acting chairman of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK.

Constitutional measures from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, were approved in a nationwide referendum Sunday and raised concerns in the judiciary over judicial independence.

The judiciary, which has blocked many of the government’s bills in the past, has frequently clashed with the AKP in recent months over judicial independence.

In a recent debate, the judiciary expressed its opposition to the constitutional amendments’ judiciary-related articles, saying they violated the principle of the separation of powers, one of the unalterable articles of the Constitution.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, has steadfastly defended the changes, saying the amendments would end judicial tutelage.

Speaking to journalists Monday, Özbek said: “We wish the principle of the state of law had not been violated and that the judiciary had become more independent. But, we are far behind the point where we were standing yesterday.”

Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, told reporters Monday that as judges they were determined to protect judicial independence though the legal change.

“Judicial independence is one of the basic elements of democracy and the state of law. As judges, we are determined to protect the state of law and the independence of the judges although the Constitution and laws may change. It is not possible to prevent this,” he said.

Yalçınkaya, who opened a court case in 2008 to close the AKP for being a focal point of Islamist activity, also said they did not want to interfere in politics and that they would closely follow political actions which violate the law.

In his column Monday, Rıza Türmen, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights, pointed to the possible negative impacts of the amendments on the judiciary, arguing that the amendments were likely to create a judiciary dependent on the government. 

Criticizing the presence of the justice minister and his undersecretary in the reconfigured HSYK, Türmen also questioned the increased authority of the justice minister in launching probes into judges and prosecutors.

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