The tragedy of Turkish justice - II
Yesterday, Turkish police raided the offices of a branch of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) Kilis, a town near the Syrian border. The press reported that the raid was a part of an operation against al-Qaeda and one particular man who worked at the office was suspected to be a member of the terrorist organization. (IHH itself was not blamed.)
Yet few people believed in this account of events. In the social media, thousands commented that the raid was in fact orchestrated by the members of the Gülen Movement within the police. They believed that the IHH was “targeted” for its links with the government, which was again “targeted” by the movement in question for political reasons. Some even added that Israel was involved behind the scenes. The very head of IHH, in fact, complained of “Israeli infiltration” within the Turkish police.
For me, such foreign conspiracy theories are more fantasy than fact. However, there is an undeniable fact which is underlined by not just yesterday’s raid but a whole series of recent events: The belief in the neutrality of the judiciary and the police is severely shaken. Most people rather genuinely believe that these key institutions of the state serve a narrow communitarian agenda rather than objective laws and justice.
This, of course, is not a new problem in Turkey. In the recent past, the secularists who dominated state institutions (such as the military and the judiciary) had used them to advance their subjective agendas. That is why, in this very column, I had a piece on Jan 7, 2011, titled, “The tragedy of Turkish justice.” I wrote:
“When justice lags, all else gets corrupted. That’s why the government should plan and implement a comprehensive reform of the system. It is good that they have recently built larger and nicer buildings – ‘justice palaces’ – to have better courtrooms. What is more important, though, is radically increasing the number of judges by employing new ones – and employing them according to objective criteria.”
Then I warned that the conservatives who replaced the Kemalist domination within the judiciary were only repeating the old habits:
“There have not been too many instances yet to test the impartiality of conservative judges and prosecutors, but the perception in society – created by the recent controversies over the ‘Ergenekon’ and ‘Sledgehammer’ cases – is that they are hardly any different than the Kemalists in terms of coping with the expectation of a powerful political agenda.”
Since then, there have actually been more instances to “test the impartiality of conservative judges and prosecutors,” and the results have been quite negative. More recently, even the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government began to complain of the same problem — only when it was itself disturbed by it. This subjective motivation of the AKP — that it complains of “partisan judiciary” only when the partisanship disservices itself — should not be missed. However, the passionate partisanship within the judiciary, real or perceived, should not be missed as well.
The way out is certainly not the government’s recent and scandalous legal proposal, which ties the whole justice system to the justice minister, simply destroying the independence of the judiciary. The way out is rather a consensus in the parliament, with all opposition involved, through which a truly diverse and effectively non-partisan judiciary can be built. There is no other way forward.