The state of justice in Turkey

The state of justice in Turkey

I will explain the long story of how justice in Turkey has become dependent on political power by citing the example of only one law: An omnibus bill containing 105 clauses which was passed in parliament on June 18, 2014.

One article in the law is the document of how justice is intervened; a document which has been processed as a law. 

According to Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 277, whether it is at the “investigation” phase or “prosecution” phase, in other words at the phase where you are being tried in court, affecting the legal process, moreover, giving orders or pressuring is a crime. This is the same in universal law. 

However, in the omnibus bill in question, with Article 69, they dropped the word “investigation;” now it is only a crime to put pressure on justice when it is done at the phase of “prosecution.”

Thus, the pressures, the orders given on the phone and the threats imposed on the prosecutor and the judges by the Justice Ministry in the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, investigations were no longer a crime. In the law history books I have read, I have not seen an example of this during civilian periods. 

Not only this; with the same omnibus bill, “magistrates of peace” were established. The final power in entire investigation operations was given to them. Of course the majority of peace judges are honest and competent judges; however there were stories in the press that certain judges who had won the sympathy of the government with their verdicts were appointed to these posts. 

Respected legal academia such as Professors Ergun Özbudun, Sami Selçuk, İzzet Özgenç and Kemal Gözler have explained that these peace magistrates were against the fundamental principles of law. Moreover, Selçuk said these magistrates resembled the Yassıada Courts, the notorious courts of the May 27, 1960, military regime. 

Moreover, the Justice Ministry organized the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) elections. Despite the Constitutional Court’s annulment decision, they processed such a HSYK election law that the ministry gained its “own list.” 

The HSYK violated its own regulations and practices and exiled judges and prosecutors; it still is doing so. Thus, the government created at least “a shy justice” for the time being. 

These are not my views but the respected judiciary’s views. They are also in international legal documents such as the EU Progress Report and the report of the Venice Commission. 

When the road is paved as such, then the destination is certain.

We see that the overwhelming majority of the caretakers appointed to the Koza-İpek Group are administrators in the Justice and Development Party (AKP) district organizations, AKP members of municipalities, AKP deputy candidates, civil servants of the AKP government or a former media executive of a pro-government media outlet. 

Why are there not a couple of people from other parties “by coincidence?” Why are those people who may be considered impartial in the majority? Why are they mostly lawyers? Shouldn’t caretakers with managerial features be appointed to these companies? 

Moreover, since the monetary operations of these companies seemed suspicious, then why did they not appoint auditor trustees instead of seizing the managements and media organs with managing caretakers of a certain political view? 

The answers to these questions are obvious: The first act of the caretakers was to pull the cord and darken the screens. That was the aim in the first place. 

The bigger problem is the “politicization of the judiciary.” As a matter of fact, there are direct illegalities to the law, to technical law in the appointment of trustees. Turkish Bar Association (TBB) head Prof. Metin Feyzioğlu issued a statement earlier in the week explaining the unlawfulness of seizing the management of Koza-İpek Group. This is particularly important: According to the law, the appointment of trustees can only be done with the aim of “finding the truth,” in other words the search for evidence. 

Whereas these companies have been audited numerous times before and, as in the most recent incident, their documents were confiscated with a police raid and examined. 

What does all this show? It shows that the government has systemized intervention in justice beyond individual incidents.

This is not a good course of events. As the confidence in justice is decreasing, tension in society is increasing. 
Playing politics with justice darkens the country’s future; everyone should avoid it.