Seeing diversity as a threat limits freedoms: Top Turkish judge
AA PhotoRegarding differences and diversity as a potential threat to the Turkish state will make expanding freedoms in the country well-nigh impossible, the head of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç has warned.
Additionally, Kılıç underlined the role that the court has played in protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens using the basis of universal standards, particularly citing the court’s landmark decisions on lengthy detentions, fair trial, freedom of expression and the right to property.
“There is no doubt that the opportunity to expand freedoms will disappear as long as we define differences and diversity as a potential danger posed against the state,” Kılıç said Feb. 2, delivering a speech at an oath-taking ceremony for a newly elected member of the Constitutional Court, Kadir Özkaya.
The ceremony was attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, as well as by Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, the chiefs of other supreme courts, deputy prime ministers and several members of the cabinet.
“The fate of a democratic state governed by the rule of law depends upon an effective protection through the elimination of obstacles before rights and freedoms. Universal standards that have been formed about rights and freedoms have now become a part of world heritage and have been put at all of humanity’s disposal without being discriminated against on the basis of religion, sect and race,” Kılıç said.
“The sensitivity and conscientiousness about freedoms of others, not only one’s own freedoms, is the sole formula which will provide social peace,” he said.
While wishing success and saluting the new member of the top court, Özkaya, the outgoing top judge, said: “Members of the Constitutional Court have to be the assurance of constitutional principles too through their interpretation of fundamental rights and freedoms, that are entrusted to them, without harming the universal structure [of fundamental rights and freedoms] and in line with the outlined goal. Adding what isn’t present in the Constitution through interpretation or ignoring what is present would render the oath taken meaningless.”
Expressing his pride in an unveiled way, Kılıç, who will retire in March, devoted a remarkable space to the achievements of his court thanks to individual access to legislation which came into effect in September 2012, as part of a set of reforms that were voted on in the Sept. 12 referendum in 2010 – reforms that were carried out as part of Turkey’s bid for full EU membership.
More than 30,000 applications have been since September 2012.
Codes and practice of law
Visiting the Justice Academy of Turkey following the ceremony at the top court, Erdoğan delivered remarks on his understanding of law and justice during a speech at the academy.
The practice of law and codes are two different things, Erdoğan said.
“If you ask me [if codes or practice of law], then the thing which I will defend would be practice of law,” he said, arguing that codes reflect the desire and personality of those who write such regulations.
“But practice of law is not like that. If a legal arrangement is not able to protect my rights, then I cannot call it practice of law,” the president said.
Erdoğan also drew attention to the vital need for the independence of judges and prosecutors.
“Those who put their minds and consciences under one’s order cannot be either a judge or a prosecutor. We should know just like this,” he said in an unveiled repeat of his and the government’s claim and conviction that the Gülen movement had allegedly infiltrated the judiciary and security forces.
The judiciary has long been a key battleground between the government and what the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) describes as the “parallel state” affiliated to the Fethullah Gülen movement
The Constitutional Court has recently been targeted by the government over its rulings on individual complaints. The top court’s visibility has grown due to crucial decisions it has made, such as its April 2, 2014, ruling concerning Turkey’s block on Twitter access.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court said the block violated freedom of expression and individual rights. The ruling marked the most significant legal challenge yet to the ban, which caused public uproar and international condemnation.
Throughout 2014, the court has angered Erdoğan and the AKP with a series of liberal rulings, including its lifting of the Twitter ban in April 2014 and its lifting of the YouTube ban one month later, on the grounds that both were a violation of freedom of expression. At the time, Erdoğan had criticized the court’s ruling to unblock Twitter for being made without exhausting all legal paths.