Turkey bar union issues stern warning against controversial judicial draft bill

Turkey bar union issues stern warning against controversial judicial draft bill

Turkey bar union issues stern warning against controversial judicial draft bill

DHA photo

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations has issued a stern warning against a controversial draft bill seeking to restructure the country’s judiciary and extend the powers of the president to assign high court members, in a full-page advertisement in daily Hürriyet. 

“Judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State are being discharged with enactment,” the title of the announcement read, warning that the propositions of the draft bill were not the “right way” of resolving problems within the judiciary.

The draft bill is largely considered a means to purge alleged members of the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, an ally-turned-foe of both the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, from critical judicial positions. 

“We want neither a cemaatçi [Gülenist] structure, nor this nor that within the judiciary. We also do not want a judiciary which takes orders from the political government or another authority,” the statement published June 22 said.

“We want a system where politics stop shaping the judiciary and the judiciary stops intervening in politics with arbitrary decisions. In short, we want separation of powers,” the union said, underlining that social peace encompassing all the 78 million citizens of Turkey can only be ensured via the provision of justice. 

“We are on no one’s side. We side with the rule of law,” the statement said. 

In its proposals, the union suggested restructuring the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) through mutual agreement rather than a fait accompli. 

“We invite Turkey’s Grand National Assembly and the political government to act in line with the law, in line with common sense and withdraw the draft bill that is being debated,” the union said. 

According to the 38-article draft, the number of judges in the Supreme Court of Appeals will be reduced from 516 to 200, while the number of judges at the Council of State will drop from 195 to 90. All members of both courts will be dismissed by the day the law goes into force except for its presidents, who will retain their positions despite the change in the law. 

The new members of both courts will be selected by the HSYK in five days after the law goes into effect.

Erdoğan will directly select one-fourth of those members – or 24 members of the restructured council. These members will serve on the council for 12 years.

The movement of Gülen, an Islamic scholar based in the United States, is accused of trying to overthrow the government – its erstwhile ally – by using its influence in the judiciary and police.