Publication Open Letter of Yarsav (Turkish Association of Judges and Prosecutors): “Final conquest of the last bastion of turkish judiciary: government purging high judiciary”

Vlag TurkijeAfter relocation of nearly 9000 judges (out of appx. 15000) in less than 20 months and recruiting thousands of politically loyal people as judges and prosecutors to high judicial ranks, the government, under the disguise of “judicial reform”, “judicial re-organization”, using the pretext of purging “parallel structure members” is reducing the number of members of the supreme courts by half.

A draft law aiming to change the structures of supreme courts, Council of State and Court of Cassation, has been submitted to the Parliament by the Justice and Development Party with plans to have it passed before the Parliament goes to recess at the end of June.

According to the draft, the number of judges at the Court of Cassation will be reduced from 516 to 200, while the number of judges at the Council of State will drop from 195 to 90. Tenure of high judges will be terminated when the law goes into effect. Right after this, the Judicial Council, which is under direct control of the government, will make reappointments to the high courts in 5 days among the same group. Some members of the Council of State will directly be appointed by President Erdoğan. Judges, whose tenure will be terminated and who are not reappointed to the supreme courts as high judges will be sent to different lower instance courts as a plain judge. Newly reappointed high judges’ tenure will be limited to 12 years.

In a stark contrast with the newest measure, the same government in 2011 and 2014 had increased the number of members of the high judiciary and had doubled the member quantity under the pretext of huge workload. Now in order to get rid of all dissidents, it reduces the number of high judges in a way that can only be described as “Civil Coup”. After guardians of the democracy are removed people will become vulnerable against dictatorial acts and actions of the government.

Turkish constitution allows judges to remain in their positions until the retirement age of 65 which includes high judges. Thus, the draft law is against the constitutional principle of security of tenure and irremovability of judges. It appears that Serbian model is followed by the government.

President Erdoğan is taking this action irrespective of the fact that it is unconstitutional and Constitutional Court will eventually annual this law. Unfortunately annulment decisions of the Constitutional Court have no retroactive effect so in practice annulment of  law in question will be meaningless and useless. Damage will already be done until the Constitutional Court passes a judgement without possibility of restitutio in integrum.

It is obvious now that only those high judges who pledged allegiance to Erdoğan will be reappointed and will save themselves from this unimaginable, unlawful, unconstitutional purge. Erdoğan will be in full control of both lower courts and high judiciary after this law goes into force. Instrumentalisation of the judiciary by Erdoğan will be completed and the judiciary will serve  as a government tool to silence and punish all kinds of opposition more than ever before.

In the name of all values, standards, fundamental rights and freedoms that contemporary world has paid heavy price to achieve and maintain we, free and independent Turkish judges and prosecutors, call upon international institutions to react strongly against rise of dictatorship at the doorsteps of Europe. Take into consideration what has happened in our region in the last couple of years and imagine what a dictator can do with a limitless power.

It is not only responsibility but also a duty for the international community to react in order to stop this act of madness.

Respectfully submitted to your attentions.

Murat Durmaz

Turkish Association of Judges and Prosecutors