Sunday, October 9, 2016

Attempted coup shakes up Turkish judiciary

The detention of 2,745 judicial and administrative judges and prosecutors was ordered after they were suspended from duty by the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), hours after a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Majority of them have reportedly been arrested so far. The HSYK’s 2nd chamber ruled for the suspension of 3456 members of judiciary, on suspicion of links to the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and dismissed all of them so far. This figure does not include suspension of 200 military judges, nor dismissal of 78 of them. The government has stated that Gülenists were behind the failed coup attempt.

Meanwhile, the general assembly of the HSYK has decided to end the membership of five of its 22 judges facing detention demands by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, while it has cut short the vacations of some judges and prosecutors. Two members of the Constitutional Court, Alparslan Altan and Erdal Tercan, were detained. A total of 48 members of the Council of State, who were sought with an arrest warrant, were detained in relation to the coup attempt, while 10 other Council of State members were reportedly detained later. Arrest warrants were issued for 140 members of the Supreme Court of Appeals and 129 of them have been arrested.

Meanwhile, the Bakırkoy Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul ordered the detention, in line with the HSYK’s demand, of some 140 judges and prosecutors on duty at the Bakırkoy, Kucukcekmece and district administrative courts early on July 17. The suspects are charged with “being members of an armed terrorist organization” and “trying to overthrow the Turkish government.” An additional detention warrant was also issued on July 17 for 110 judges and prosecutors working at Istanbul’s Anadolu courthouse.

The failed coup represents the loss of almost one fourth of the judicial workforce in one go. It leaves an enormous workload, as the Judiciary will have to deal with the huge number of charges that are being brought before them, not only against their own members but also against thousands of military, police and public personnel. However, it should be noted that the majority of the conglomerate judiciary remains in duty and intact as the courts continued their normal functioning without any interruption.

The HSYK has quickly taken all measures in order to deal with this extraordinary situation. The HSYK immediately cancelled the traditional judicial holiday. Judges and public prosecutors have had to cancel their annual holiday plans that were traditionally used up between 20 July and 1 September. Traditionally Turkish judiciary reduces the workload to a minimum to allow its members to rest during this period. Thus, the judiciary who have given up their judicial holiday will be able to deal with the sudden workload swiftly and properly.

While foreign sources have speculated as to whether this incident would be used to suppress opposition, local media coverage on the arrests suggests that they are accused of being members of a parallel establishment that the National Security Council has already declared as a terrorist organization threatening the state. Criminal experts concur that with coup attempt, the element of using armed forces means this declaration has full legal basis.

This major shakeup of the judiciary, however, will undoubtedly have adverse effects on ordinary judicial matters. It means that the judges will have to be replaced in pending proceedings. New judges will need to familiarize themselves with the existing proceedings and this will result in delays. Judges will need to use their holiday entitlements outside of traditional holiday times which will result in further unplannable delays also.

The one fourth of judges who were on arrest lists may have been lacking the essential element of impartiality that the judiciary’s appointment and promotion systems failed to eliminate upon appointment. Lawyers are hopeful that the failed coup may result in further improvement of the judiciary’s institutional systems where meritocracy, transparency and accountability prevail once again. Lawywers are also quite confident that the Turkish Judiciary, whose hard working members are long accustomed to dealing with massive workload, will be able to deal with any additional workload as a result of the failed coup attempt.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation and must be submitted under your real name. Anonymous comments will not be posted (even though the form seems to permit them).