Constitutional amendment undermines judiciary, no progress in anti-corruption fight: CoE
The Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) has noted “a worrying lack of progress” in Turkey regarding preventing and combatting corruption, stressing concerns that the contentious and much discussed constitutional change appears to put the configuration of Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) even “more under the control of the executive branch.”
The GRECO published two reports on Mar. 15 stating that “Turkey has implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner two of the twenty-two recommendations contained in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report.” The reports also described Turkey’s current level of compliance as “globally unsatisfactory.”
Noting the April 2017-approved constitutional amendment, which altered Turkey’s legislative and judiciary structure, the 49-member group voiced “concerns” over the executive branch’s influence over the judiciary.
The amendment’s replacement of the Supreme Board of Elections (HSYK) with the HSK, changing its configuration and recruitment procedure in the process, is a particular worry. The GRECO has said it “is critically concerned that the HSK appears to be even less of an independent body than the HSYK.”
“This runs counter to the objective sought by the recommendation, which is to ensure that the independence of the self-governing judicial body is protected from possible interference from the executive and political branches,” it read.
The number of HSK members was brought down from 22 to 13 members with the amendment. Some four of the members are to be appointed by the president, four are chosen from the judges of the Council of State and the Supreme Court and three from academics and lawyers selected by parliament. Two of the members are the Justice Minister and the undersecretary.
“This development results in the HSK clearly not being in line with the international standard calling for at least half of the members of self-governing judicial bodies to be elected by their peers, as enshrined in the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Recommendation,” it read.
“The GRECO is concerned that the situation has not improved; rather it would appear that the process of selecting and recruiting judges is even more under the control of the executive branch,” it added.
Apart from the process of selecting and recruiting candidate judges, the report also noted the executive branch’s influence over the reassignment of judicial officeholders against their will and disciplinary procedures, “which all have a negative impact on the security of the tenure of judicial officeholders.”
Transparency of the legislative process
The GRECO also said “the transparency of the legislative process in parliament remains a major concern.”
It noted a “worrying upward trend” in the practice of issuing omnibus bills, a legislative package that includes a number of unrelated legislations under one bill, noting that it grants “limited time for adoption, which was not conducive to examination by lawmakers or public consultation.”
“There are no rules governing the organization of public consultations in the legislative process, beyond the possibility of inviting experts or civil society to hearings during the early stages of the preparation of legislation,” it added.