Great to have apprentices around

Great to have apprentices around

It’s a matter of national pride. The Turkish justice system is unfortunately one which suffers from all sorts of political manipulation. If the democratic progress of a country is limited to moving from a democracy under the military’s boots to a democracy under the imam’s clogs, supremacy of law, a functioning judiciary and justice can exist only in dictionaries and law books. Yet, no one in that country can celebrate because an American ambassador criticized the awful situation of that state’s justice system and in a way lends support to those who have been calling for a comprehensive judicial reform.

There is a storm in a teacup thanks to remarks Ambassador Francis Ricciardone spoke to a group of Ankara newsmen. What did the ambassador say? Very much aware of the criticism allergy of the Turkish government, the ambassador started his sentence by saying, “I do not mean to sound critical.” But the ambassador couldn’t help himself and out poured out some criticism against the Turkish judicial system. Indeed, he also underlined that Turkish leaders, including the premier, had lately been critical of the same issues. “The prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the president of Turkey in recent days have spoken to the outcomes from your judicial system that do not seem right to them. You have members of Parliament who have been behind bars for a long time, sometimes on unclear charges. You have your military leaders, who were entrusted with the protection of this country, behind bars as if they were terrorists. You have professors. You have the former head of YÖK (Higher Education Council) who is behind bars on unclear charges evidently relating to him upholding the law when he was a government official sixteen years ago. You have non-violent student protesters protesting tuition hikes behind bars. When a legal system produces such results and confuses people like that for terrorists, it makes it hard for American and European courts to match up,” the ambassador said.

Sometime after his arrival to Turkey in April 2011, Ambassador Ricciardone, at a breakfast with diplomacy correspondents, said in a totally friendly manner, “Sometimes from outside, you see things in another party, in a friend, in a country that seems contradictory. And we ask friends what – I learned a wonderful expression this past week, dare I try it? ‘Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu?’ I love that. It’s neither a diet nor a cabbage pickle. It’s so hard to translate into English. So, as foreigners, we see this is ‘neither diet nor a cabbage pickle.’ And we say what is this all about?”

Because of that statement the ambassador was condemned by a volcanic Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of being an “apprentice” and since then the ambassador has not uttered a word on such issues. Now, if after almost two years he has decided to walk into that mine-laden area once again. Could anyone say it was not intentional, but merely a slip of the tongue? Definitely not. Turkey’s key ally, the United States is fed up with the awful situation of the Turkish justice system, the manipulation of the justice system by the political authority and is now telling Ankara how wrong it has been.

It is against the code of diplomatic conduct for a diplomat to talk on domestic matters of the host country. Non-interference in internal affairs has been the backbone of the Westphalian world order. But are issues pertaining to human rights and liberties, norms of democracy, supremacy of law domestic issues of a country? They should be under the Westphalia system but not any longer. There can be no borders for universal values and it is so good that there are still “apprentices” around who are brave enough to remind Ankara rulers of reality.