Turkey’s judiciary, which was previously independent of the government, has now been placed directly under the control of government ministers. The ruling party has defended the move as part of a crackdown following accusations that a group of lawyers planned to overthrow the current government. However, the opposition has been critical of the new legislation, describing it as “a modern coup d’etat.”
The lawyers in question allegedly plotted against the government, under the cover of investigating a corruption scandal. The corruption investigation in question involved several prominent businessmen and the sons of former government ministers.
Off the back of these allegations Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been Turkey’s Prime Minister for the past 11 years, introduced legislation that placed the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the country’s premier judicial institution, under direct government control. As a result, the government can now appoint or dismiss judges and prosecutors, and enforce their decisions on the Supreme Council. Erdogan said that this was a necessary measure in countering threats to the government – an idea which the opposition question.
Many prosecutors and judges have now been dismissed by the government in connection with the allegations since the new powers took effect. The total number of dismissals reportedly reaches into the hundreds.
The move to place what was an independent judicial system under the direct control of the government has drawn widespread criticism both within Turkey and elsewhere across the world. The country’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, said that it granted “exceptional authority” to the justice minister. The Republican People’s Party’s Deputy Chair, Faruk Logoglu, accused the government of intending the legislation to “transform the Turkish state” into one that was undemographic and compared the result to a sultanate. He said that placing such power into the hands of the justice minister was simply “wrong.”
The human rights committee of the Law Society has also spoken out against the legislation. They have criticised the government’s introduction of this legislation, saying that it hinders free speech and challenges the Turkish judicial system’s independence. The committee’s chair, Professor Sara Chandler, said that ” The legislation passed earlier this week, to bring the country’s top judicial body under justice ministry influence, is unconstitutional and undermines the judiciary’s independence.”
Professor Chandler went on to say: “The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is responsible for appointing members of the judiciary, is an independent body and should remain so.”