Parliament panel approves controversial judicial reform bill

Parliament panel approves controversial judicial reform bill

Parliament panel approves controversial judicial reform bill

Last weekend's sessions at the Justice Commission were marked by tense debates. AA photo

Late on Jan. 16, Parliament’s Justice Commission, which started related work on Jan. 10, approved a ruling party-led set of amendments that will give the government significantly more control over the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). The amendments will be debated next week in the General Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The hasty work by the parliamentary commission comes at a time when the government has already tightened its grip on the council, which controls the appointment of all judges and prosecutors, and stepped up purges of the judiciary. 

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes prosecutors are involved in a plot to undermine him through a series of corruption allegations. The investigations, which went public on Dec. 17, have put Erdoğan in one of the biggest crises of his 11 years in power. 

The draft introduces dramatic changes to the duties and authorities of the council. At the date when the arrangement goes into force, the duties of the secretary-general, the deputy secretary-general, the president of the Supervisory Board, the deputy president of the Supervisory Board, the board inspectors, the examining magistrates and other administrative staff, will all end.

The duties of the deputy president of the HSYK and chamber directors, as well as those of board members in the chambers, will also end.

The HSYK president will be in charge of investigating and prosecuting members of the HSYK, who have been elected to office, in the event of crimes related to their duties as well as personal crimes. 
According to the draft, the Justice Ministry will be authorized to assign judges and prosecutors in international courts or organizations by receiving their letters of consent.

On-the-job training for judges and prosecutors will be arranged by the Turkey Justice Academy. 

Main opposition to object to the amendment

In an interview with Halk TV late on Jan. 16, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said his party would try to block the adoption of the draft if it is sent to the floor of the General Assembly.

Earlier this week, Kılıçdaroğlu declared that the bill would “throw 90 years of democratic gains into the garbage.”

Underlining that the draft gives the Justice Minister extended authorities, the CHP head gave the example that if a judge objects to an order from the minister he would be subject to inspection too easily. 

“With unheard-of claims, you know, now in Turkey, they can even put people to death by hanging. They will charge him, maybe he will lose his profession. They want this opportunity. That’s to say, the Supervisory Board will turn into a ‘Threat Board.’ That’s the essence of the matter,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. 
“This is the reason why the EU is objecting the change and why the president of the Venice Commission also objects the amendment.”