Thursday, October 6, 2016

Turkey will abolish military courts, including military high courts, by 2017

This action is part of government efforts to boost civilian control over the armed forces and the judiciary. The reforms will also aim to unite Turkey's high courts under a single roof. It will not include controversial projects such as the introduction of an executive presidency.

President Tayyip Erdogan blames U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the coup attempt, which killed about 240 people in July 2016. He has initiated a crackdown on Gulen's followers within the judiciary, military and the rest of the government for alleged links to the coup plot.

Measures to cleanse the members of judiciary who have sold their souls to the Gulenist terror group is a must. Work will be carried out to unite high courts under a single one. After that, the military high court and military administrative court will also be removed.

The military courts have jurisdiction over the prosecution of soldiers. The military high courts are, in effect, appeals courts for those cases.

Overhauling the judiciary follows unprecedented changes to the military's structure, including closing secondary war academies, moving to bring the army fully under Defence Ministry control and dishonorably discharging more than 3,000 soldiers.

Any constitutional change requires the support of at least 367 deputies in the 550-seat assembly to pass directly. The AKP has 316 seats; the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), 133 lawmakers.

Opposition parties have been wary of the AKP's years-long campaign for a new constitution because Erdogan has made transforming his office from a largely ceremonial post into an executive-style presidency a central aspect of the new charter. They worry this will concentrate too much power in his hands.

The reforms also envisage parliament electing members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) instead of the existing system where the Justice Ministry, members of the high courts and Erdogan appoint them.

The failed coup has given Erdogan the perfect excuse to do just that -- remove all traces of Gulenist influence. Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Alan has said that some 76,000 government employees have been suspended following the failed coup attempt. They have all been accused of having connections to the Gulen movement.

Some 3,800 of the arrested were police officers, 7,400 were soldiers, 2,500 were judges and prosecutors, 200 were local officials, and 4,800 were civilians. This includes around 190 generals and admirals and half of the country’s fighter pilots.

The long-term consequences for Turkey’s military could be huge. Becoming a general or an admiral can take around 20 years; fighter pilots must commit to eight to 10 years of active duty. Add to that the new changes the Erdogan government has made regarding the decentralization of the Turkish Armed Forces. Using the extraordinary power of the president during the state of emergency, all commanders of the land, air, and naval forces will report directly to their respective ministers in the civil government and no longer to the chief of the general staff, as was previously the case. The chief of the general staff will now directly report to Erdogan himself.

To some observers, this could help democratize society. There are concerns, however, that these new lines of authority will mean an end to the Turkish Armed Forces’s meritocracy, especially when those lines lead directly to the president, his prime minister, and a few loyal ministers.

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