Hard to find such unproductive justice

Hard to find such unproductive justice

I wrote earlier in the week: “Our prosecutors completed each of the investigations they launched in 2013 in an average of 90 days. Out of every 100 investigation, they opened 49 civil law suits. Our criminal courts, after trying these 49 people for 210 to 260 days, convicted 20 of them. These 20 convictions were taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals. In an average of 328 days, eight were totally approved and six were partially approved.

“This is exactly what makes the justice system in Turkey so disputable and criticized. Prosecutors investigate 100 citizens and only 14 of these are sentenced. The remaining 86 citizens are either unnecessarily investigated, victimized and needlessly made to crawl in court corridors and perhaps later in jails. For 50 of these 86 people, the agony lasts for an average of three months. For the remaining 36 people, the agony continues for an average of 550 days.” 

All the data is taken from the Justice Ministry’s own website. 

Please note that I am not referring to the “parallel structure” or the “partisan Kemalist judiciary.” Without any contribution from these corrupting factors, we already face a problematic system.  

Let’s go one by one: First, the office of the prosecutor is not accountable. The malfunctioning of the system starts with the office of the prosecutor. Our prosecutors have such freedom that they can open an investigation against anybody they want. Of course, if there is suspicion of a crime, an investigation should be opened. But when nobody holds prosecutors to account, nothing happens when only 49 out of every 100 investigations opened are referred to courts. Nobody goes to the prosecutor to say: “Look, you have spent lots of of money on these 51 investigations; you have victimized so many people, what happens now?” If “justice’s victims” are gathering at the level of the prosecutor’s office, there is a very big problem there.
Second, the freedom of the prosecutor should be reviewed. We could use either the province or the district as an administrative unit and appoint a prosecutor to each one. He or she could have the responsibility to open investigations and be accountable, responsible for the prosecutors subordinate to them. We should grant both the freedom and accountability to one person in each administrative unit. In this way, the situation of “each prosecutor unto themselves” would come to an end. 

Third, a bargaining system should be considered. When we look at the work load of our criminal courts, the average duration of cases (210–260 days) draws our attention. If we are not to increase the number of our courts, we should try to decrease the number of cases in courts. For this, we should consider the plea bargaining system. 

Fourth, prosecutors should prepare better indictments. When we look at the figures, we see that 37 percent of public cases launched resulted in convictions. If six of 10 criminal cases resulted in acquittal then prosecutors are opening these cases in vain. Either the prosecutor should conduct better investigations and establish their claims more securely, or the case should never be opened. Essentially, the current system is being blocked up by prosecutors, not citizens. 

Fifth, court verdicts are not the best either. A general quality problem emerges at every level of the system. In 2013, the Supreme Court of Appeals criminal departments saw 374,606 files coming from criminal courts from all around the country. Out of these files, only 42.1 percent were approved in the form they arrived in. If six out of every 10 files are partially or totally reversed, then there is an enormous difference of opinion between the Supreme Court and local civil courts.  

It is the government’s duty and responsibility to make this system work productively. It is the justice minister’s duty to determine where the system malfunctions, suggest solutions, and take them to parliament’s agenda. It is our money and our time that is being spent - and both should be used more productively.