Turkey seeks justice system that inspires confidence

Turkey seeks justice system that inspires confidence

Serkan Demirtaş

According to a recent public opinion survey by Konda - one of Turkey’s most credible pollsters, 72 percent of Turkish people have singled out “justice” as a word that will best describe Turkey in the coming decade.

In an interview, Konda’s Director Bekir Ağırdır explained this sentiment: “An overwhelming majority of the Turkish people, regardless of their social classes or groups, call for justice. Peace, respect follow it by 40 percent. It’s obvious that the ruling bloc has caused an erosion in the sense of justice and of conscience on the issue of the cancellation of (Istanbul) polls. There is no need to conduct a survey on it.”

This erosion in the sense of justice has not occurred on a single night. The infiltration of members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) into the judicial system in the days when it stood as the most important ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had caused very harsh damage to the judicial system and the sense of justice in general.

Consecutive constitutional amendments in the late 2000s and in 2010 have provided all the necessary conditions for FETÖ to take root within the judicial system and to fully control each and every judicial body.

A break in the ties between the government and FETÖ in late 2013 had a partial effect in reversing the entire picture. The July 2016 failed coup attempt by FETÖ led to a massive purge of FETÖ-related judicial personnel, but they were, this time, substituted by judges and prosecutors loyal to the government. Legal changes have paved the way for thousands of attorneys to be appointed as judges and prosecutors in order to fill the vacuum.

The current judicial landscape is far from universal standards and is often subject to criticism from international organizations due to its poor record of displaying impartiality and independence.

This, in fact, was on the government’s agenda for some time under the title of “judicial reform strategy,” which was revealed as a priority during a Reform Action Group in August 2018. After nearly eight months of work, the government seems to have the strategy accomplished and ready to disclose it next week.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül has said that the judicial reform strategy will be announced on May 30 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The motto of this strategy will be “the justice that inspires confidence” to the people, he explained, informing that they have pursued a very detailed work with the inclusion of bar associations, non-governmental organizations and others.

“That paved the way for much better ideas. This reform is not the first and won’t be the last,” he stated. “We will introduce a roadmap for reforms and judicial packages with the purpose of extending personal freedoms. The reform will not include any legal document but will represent a roadmap and our will. It will outline our vision.”

This reform strategy document is not only on our radar but also on the European Union and Council of Europe, two main European bodies that have long been trying to inspire the Turkish government to heal its judicial system. To what extent this strategy document will deliver much-awaited expectations will only be seen when it will be fully disclosed next week.

However, it’s unfortunate that this move comes after the Supreme Election Board’s (YSK) controversial ruling that canceled the Istanbul elections with no convincing justification. It does mention some irregularities but fails to prove an organized scheme to the advantage of the oppositional candidate. Dissenting opinions of four judges against seven on the cancellation of Istanbul polls show that the YSK’s ruling was more political than legal.

Hopes would be much higher regarding this new reform strategy and justice in the future if the YSK would surprise the whole nation by giving a green light to Ekrem İmamoğlu.