Gov’t readies bill to shorten detentions

Gov’t readies bill to shorten detentions

Gov’t readies bill to shorten detentions

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin. DAILY NEWS photo

The government is planning to submit a draft law to Parliament next week to address the frequently criticized length of detention periods with measures ensuring that all court cases are completed within one year.

“We will submit a comprehensive draft law to Parliament within a week. We will legislate on very important measures to shorten judicial prosecution periods,” Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin told reporters after the Justice Commission met at Parliament yesterday. “This will be a revolution for Turkey.”

Ergin met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül yesterday to inform both leaders on developments in the judiciary and on a recent legal move ending the confusion over Gül’s term in office.

Lengthy prosecution periods stand as one of the most important problems for the government in the field of democracy and human rights, and victims have brought hundreds of cases on the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. The problem has drawn greater attention in recent years as many prominent figures, including journalists, academics and elected lawmakers, have been affected by long prosecution periods.

“I am hoping that in one year, the entire judicial process for civil proceedings will be shortened to one year, including the appeal process, and that in one-and-half to two years, criminal prosecutions will be completed in one year, including appeal periods,” Ergin said. The backlog of cases at the Supreme Court of Appeals will be cleared within a year, Ergin said, without elaborating on how so many cases would be heard.

The Justice Ministry has launched workshops with the participation of judges and prosecutors, as well as national and international academics, to examine ways to shorten prosecution periods and bring them into line with international standards. “We have started to see the fruits of this detailed work,” said Ergin.

The bill is expected to be submitted to Parliament early next week, but its legislation will take time, according to sources. The opposition parties as well as international human rights associations have long pressed the government to immediately deal with the issue.

In line with this proposal, the government has also announced its intention to amend the criteria for arrest through a separate law. The issue was sparked after the arrest of former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ on charges of leading a terror organization that aimed to topple the government.
In the meantime, a regulation allowing convicts to meet their first-degree relatives who are proven to be seriously ill has been approved by the Justice Commission, a move that was designed to help Mehmet Haberal, an arrested deputy from the main opposition, visit his mother, who is in intensive care.

Upon criticism that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) imprisoned leader might also seek to benefit from this right, the commission decided to exclude inmates convicted of terror-related crimes.