The future of Turkey-EU ties after the Kavala case

The future of Turkey-EU ties after the Kavala case

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), dedicated a good part of his weekly parliamentary address on Feb. 25 to the problems stemming from the deterioration in judicial impartiality.

He cited the rearrest of Osman Kavala immediately following his acquittal in the Gezi trial as the most recent example. “We should not just look at [the legal aspects of] this case but also at it from a human perspective. How can one restrict the freedom of an innocent person?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked.

He also slammed the Council of Judges and Prosecutors for launching a probe against three judges who acquitted Kavala of all charges in the Gezi trial. For Kılıçdaroğlu, the Turkish judicial system no longer dispenses justice, as it instead embodies the lack of trust in the public’s eyes.

A joint statement by 25 bar associations that represent around 80 percent of Turkey’s lawyers has strengthened Kılıçdaroğlu’s assessment on the state of justice. “Turkey is going through its gravest judicial crisis,” read the statement, criticizing the growing influence of the executive over key judicial cases. 

Although a week has passed since the Kavala case, it was interesting to observe the silence of Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, who has long worked actively to repair the judicial system through reform strategy packages. Only time will tell where things will lead after this judicial impasse.

The Kavala case also has impacts beyond our borders. Kavala’s rearrest just a few hours after he was acquitted has ignited reactions from prominent European bodies, including the European Union and the Council of Europe, as well as human rights groups and nongovernmental organizations.

Among many others, one statement from the Council of Europe was particularly important. “These allegedly new charges brought against Osman Kavala have no credibility and for me, this arrest amounts to ill-treatment.

I call on the Turkish judiciary and the Council of Judges and Prosecutors to assume their responsibility, by not giving a judicial confirmation to such abuses of criminal proceedings, and by reining in such prosecutors,” said Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights. In such a context, it will be harder for Turkey to free itself of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s monitoring process.

The continued deterioration of justice will also have an impact on Turkey-EU ties. Kavala’s rearrest is regarded as yet another serious blow to Turkey’s judicial independence and impartiality, and there are few hopes for any reversal. Such a deterioration in justice will also hamper efforts to upgrade the customs union, something high-level diplomats in Ankara have suggested.  

Turkey’s accession process is approaching an irreversible end due to the recent developments that are continuously wearing down its democratic and human rights standards.