The executive will monitor the judiciary
The Turkish Parliament passed the bill on the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and the Justice Academy with a few “softening” changes in some articles.
It is enough to see only this about the Justice Academy: out of the 31 members, only eight were selected by the justice minister. With this new law, this figure has been raised to 22. The minister’s powers have therefore soared.
Because one of the members of the HSYK is chosen by the Academy, this arrangement will also affect the balance in the HSYK in favor of the executive.
When it is the independence of the judiciary in question, the HSYK is the Achilles heel, or the heart of the matter, because the HSYK appoints and monitors judges and prosecutors. With the new bill, all the “inspection,” in other words all the control mechanisms on judges and prosecutors, has been given to the justice minister.
The Inspection Board that oversees judges and prosecutors used to be under the Ministry of Justice. With the 2010 referendum, it was then made independent of the ministry and placed under the independent HSYK. However, with the new law, “the head of the Inspection Board will report to the justice minister.”
Moreover, the head and the deputy heads of the Inspection Board, who were previously elected by the General Assembly of the HSYK, will now be personally appointed by the justice minister.
Though the chief inspector and inspectors will again be selected by the HSYK General Assembly, this is no longer effective anymore. This is because it will be the head of the Inspection Board, who is himself appointed by the minister, who will decide which inspector will be assigned to which incident and which judge or prosecutor.
Moreover, when the law comes into effect, the jobs of all the chief inspectors, inspectors, investigating judges, the judges and the prosecutors on duty at the HSYK as staff and all the staff of the HSYK will be terminated. This is a full cleanup; not even seen during revolutionary times.
In place of them, in the first version of the bill, the General Assembly of the HSYK was going to choose among double the number of candidates prepared by the minister. In the softened version of the article, now, it will be the First Department of the HSYK that will select “double the number of candidates,” not the minister.
This is better than the minister picking up candidates, but even this version is just a “cleanup” operation. It is pretty obvious this law has been prepared for the executive gain control over the judiciary.
Carrot and stick
There are also some peculiarities in the new law. For instance, when there is an election for a member for the HSYK from high courts such as the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State, the principle of “one vote for one candidate” will be valid, and there will be no block lists of ideological or religious groups of political cadres. I think this is right…
But, when department heads are choosing members of the HSYK, then they will be able to vote for a block list. I am guessing that the Constitutional Court will annul one or the other.
In short, the new law has given an “inspection” stick to the hand of the minister. There is also a “carrot” in the law which says the minister decides who will be sent abroad for training, careers and working in international organizations.
Most of the steps taken in the direction of judicial independence with the 2010 referendum are being taken back with this law. Well, the prime minister said they made a mistake, didn’t he? In fact, the government has made a very big mistake by delivering a serious blow to the independence of the judiciary.
Taha Akyol is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Feb 17. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.