God forbid this kind of justice reform

God forbid this kind of justice reform

When asked about the arrests of journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu replied, “In these kinds of situations, trial without arrest is the principal.”  

I believe he is sincere. He is not the one orchestrating the arrests “in these kinds of situations” anyway.

During his speech on news channel HaberTürk, the PM also emphasized “justice reform.” I was in doubt over whether to be happy or concerned. Not that I do not trust Prof. Davutoğlu, but that I do not trust the Justice Ministry that will prepare the new “justice reform.”

To be able to see the picture one only needs to take a look at Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). 

In the draft prepared by former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, nobody was to make “lists” for HSYK elections and judges and prosecutors were to vote for only one of the candidates. Thus, the votes would be spread out, a “list” would not dominate the HSYK and pluralism and impartiality would have been achieved. 

However, unfortunately, the former Constitutional Court annulled this and “candidate lists” were accepted. I criticized it at that time also, arguing that these “lists” would damage the justice system and also HSYK members should be determined based on objective “competence” not by “election.”

But that did not happen. The HSYK elections in October 2010 were held with lists. The prime minister said that in these elections the HSYK was seized by the “[Gülen] community.” Well…

What did the Justice Ministry do when it was changing the HSYK law in 2014? It made a clever plan to “harmonize” the justice system with the executive body. While the lower-ranked judges and prosecutors, the ones the government thought it would be able to influence, were selecting members of the HSYK, they would be voting for lists. But the high-ranking judiciaries the government did not think they would be able to influence at that time were to vote for one candidate when they were electing members for the HSYK. 

Of course, the Constitutional Court cancelled this double standard. This time, the Justice Ministry processed a law making the “list” voting style valid for the entire justice system and the HSYK election was won by the “Justice Ministry’s list,” using public means. Moreover, the HSYK’s inspection and personnel affairs staff was totally renewed; all the positions were filled by Justice Ministry’s appointments.   

The Constitutional Court also annulled this but because the verdict was irrevocable the staff which was formed through political appointments continues to serve in the HSYK.   

I don’t have enough space to explain fully what kind of political pressure has been built on justice, how the justice system was being “tailor made” with laws “made and changed overnight.” As a matter of fact, there is no need either. 

In “these kinds of situations” where trial without arrest is called for, the fact that there are arrests explains the situation quite clearly. 

Today, there is a mentality that regards justice as a branch of the executive, and that also regards the separation of powers as a chain. The proof of this is in the presidential system draft submitted to the Parliament Conciliation Committee by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). In that draft, justice is entirely ruled by the president and his party in parliament. Moreover, in that draft, the government even appoints a member to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

This authoritarian mentality, unfortunately, emerged in these sentences in the 64th government’s program: “In the formation of top management of justice and appeals courts, we will strengthen the role of the parliament.”

The top management of justice is fine to a certain extent but what about appeals courts; in other words, for the ruling party to appoint judges to the Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State? 

The mentality which includes such a sentence in the government program is worrisome. 

A thousand times “yes” to justice reform but for separation of powers and an independent and impartial justice system. Otherwise, God forbid a reform that would make a justice system which is “harmonized” with the executive into one that is “dependent” on the executive.