Turkey's top judge issues key democracy message

Turkey's top judge issues key democracy message

Turkeys top judge issues key democracy message

Ali Alkan (L) welcomes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the ceremony. AA photo

The president of Supreme Court of Appeals delivered a stern democracy lesson to senior ruling party members and other leading figures at a ceremony for the opening of the new judicial year in Ankara, warning of the dangers of growing authoritarianism in Turkey.

“Democracy is maybe the [best-equipped] to accommodate different opinions, but it carries risks at the same time. However, this risk potential does not legitimize authoritarian measures … with the motive of protecting [rulers], and cannot be a legitimate ground for [rulers] to tie themselves to authoritarian guarantee mechanisms,” Ali Alkan said on Sept. 2. 

“Democracy is based on political choice, political consent and political tolerance. In democracies, the administration does not exclude those that are distant, as much as it does not submit to those close to itself. In democratic regimes, individuals or sections [of society] are not evaluated in terms of a friend-enemy description, but on the axis of humanitarian values,” Alkan said.

He added that the values of democratic societies were not formed "through imposition," but rather through "social acceptance."

Alkan’s remarks came at a time when the government has been increasingly scrutinized for its authoritarian tendencies, especially amid the Gezi unrest. 

President Abdullah Gül, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Constitutional Court Haşim Kılıç, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, President of the Council of State Zerrin Güngör, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, members of the Cabinet, Deputy Chair of the Supreme Board of Judges and Public Prosecutors (HSYK) Ahmet Hamsici and senior judicial officials also attended the event. 

Alkan also touched on the importance of freedom of speech. “In societies where people cannot express their opinions freely, it is observed through historical experience that the costs of this are dear and that unexpressed demands emerge as areas for social risk and manipulation,” he said. 

At the same time, the court head also said hate speech had regrettably become commonplace and emerged as a method of expression in Turkey. This threat of violence and hatred against freedom of expression must be tackled by political and social leaders, alongside civil society, he suggested.