Government ruins justice, high court fixes

Government ruins justice, high court fixes

The Constitutional Court’s landmark verdict on the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup case came only a few days after officials from Turkey and the European Union met at a working group meeting to allow the former to fulfill benchmarks for the opening of Chapter 23: Judiciary and fundamental rights.

European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle had talks with senior Turkish officials, apart from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over these issues, where they discussed Turkey’s shortcomings in the democratization process.

In his statement on Tuesday, Füle openly praised the role played by the Constitutional Court in recent months while calling on the government “to decisively engage with the EU on a comprehensive and credible reform process.”

“I welcome the role played by the Constitutional Court and its commitment to safeguard the rule of law and respect fundamental rights and freedoms, with the decisions to cancel the ban on Twitter and YouTube and amend controversial parts of legislation by the High Council of Prosecutors and Judges.

These actions taken by the Constitutional Court contribute to what is now really needed: Bringing confidence back to the judiciary and putting an end to the polarization and politicization of society. Here, all institutions have a role to play.”

Füle’s mentioning about the need to put an end to polarization and politicization in fact makes one of the most important urgings to the Turkish government, and particularly to Prime Minister Erdoğan. Speaking to European diplomats in Ankara, it become clear that almost all see Erdoğan and his policies as the main source of polarization, leading to tension that only produces more discomfort and political quarrel.

But Füle is talking about another very important thing: The need to bring the confidence back to the judiciary. It’s not only Füle and the EU that see this problem. United States Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone also welcomed the decision by the Constitutional Court and underlined the importance of the judiciary saying, “I am glad to repeat what I said before: In any democracy, citizens’ confidence in the judiciary is fundamental to the strength of democracy.”

In today’s Turkey, there are not many institutions that are paying attention and exerting efforts to strengthen Turkish democracy. Unfortunately, at the top of the list of those institutions is the government. As often stated by many European diplomats, the Constitutional Court seems to be one of few institutions providing checks and balances, and the very recent Balyoz verdict also proved this.

Erdoğan recalls that the right to individual application to the Court was brought through a referendum initiated by the current government in 2010 and that it should be praised by everybody, including the opposition parties. However, it’s also the same undemocratic moves and amendments that led the Court to shine like a star.

It was this government that shut down Twitter and YouTube; again it was this government that amended the Internet Law in a bid to increase its control of the web; again it was this government that brought the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) Law, violating the universal principles of the separation of powers.  Furthermore, it was again this government that played ostrich when hundreds of retired and on-duty military officers, intellectuals, prominent academics and journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society received lengthy sentences, and even life imprisonment, on the basis of very controversial evidence.

Erdoğan and his government members defended these violations in the late 2000s and early 2010s, even describing himself as the “prosecutor” of the Balyoz and Ergenekon case. Hundreds of suspects have lost years in prison for nothing and some of them have even lost their lives. The Constitutional Court has done its job; let the justice triumph at the end and partially clear the broken conscious of the people. The government should now also do its job: Do everything to uphold an independent, impartial and efficient judiciary in line with international norms. A system with the Constitutional Court turning into a super appeals court cannot produce healthy justice to society.