02 September 2019 15:57

Judicial year opening ceremony | Erdoğan accuses palace-avoiding bar associations of provocation

The judicial year opening ceremony at which 52 bar associations and 20 Court of Cassation members did not attend was held at the Beştepe National Congress and Culture Centre at the Presidential Palace.

Photograph: Murat Çetinmühürdar/AA

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The judicial holiday, which started on 20 July, ends today. An opening ceremony for the new judicial year was held at the Beştepe National Congress and Culture Centre at the Palace.

Union of Turkish Bar Associations (UTBA) Chair, Metin Feyzioğlu, made a speech at the ceremony, which 52 bar associations and 20 Court of Cassation members did not attend in objection to its being held at the palace saying this amounted to the judiciary paying homage to the executive. Saying, “For us, when it is a matter of the motherland, all else is detail,” Feyzioğlu stated he was at the ceremony because citizens and lawyers had expectations of him. Describing the criticism as a “perception operation,” Feyzioğlu recommended the reorganizing of the structure of the Board of Judges and Prosecutors that would bring about the full separation of powers. Saying the Judicial Reform Strategy Document had been compiled with the active participation of the UTBA, Feyzioğlu noted, “The reform packages must be speedily introduced and rapidly brought into implementation.”

For his part, Court of Cassation President, İsmail Rüştü Cirit, saying, “The judiciary being independent of all power loci, especially the legislative and executive organ, is the unswerving principle of the rule of law,” placed the stress on judicial independence. Cirit also argued that the judiciary’s quality of independence and duty of supervision and balance had been strengthened under the Presidential System of Government. Also mentioning the harsh criticism of the Turkish judiciary in the European Commission’s Turkey report, Cirit said, “The EU’s report is a worthless piece of paper. The comments in the EU report, which is part of a campaign to besmirch the Turkish judiciary in the international arena, has led to the EU losing esteem before the Turkish judiciary and public opinion.”

Addressing the ceremony, Erdoğan in turn accused the bar associations that did not attend the opening of provocation. Saying, “Certain bar associations are provoking the judicial year opening simply on account of the venue. This venue does not belong to me personally. This heroic venue is the home of our nation and all our institutions,” Erdoğan congratulated the Court of Cassation and UTBA presidents for, “The democratic stance they have displayed against provocative impositions.” Erdoğan also alleged that the Presidential System of Government was based on the more definitive and acute operation of the principle of the separation of powers and said, “The mission of heading the state given to the president is not a threat to the separation of powers.”

ERDOĞAN: CERTAIN BAR ASSOCIATIONS ARE PROVOKING THE JUDICIAL YEAR OPENING

AKP General Chair and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed the judicial year opening ceremony held at the Presidential Palace.

The key points from Erdoğan's address are as follow:

“I thank on behalf of my people the members of the judiciary who work with sacrifice for justice to be delivered. We must run in pursuit of justice for ourselves and all humanity. We are confronted by a mindset that has no compunctions about drowning the rest of the world in tears and fire for its own comfort. In no period of history have tyrants been absent, but in the same way tyranny has been unable to attain permanence. The injustices that today’s tyrants have caused will most certainly end one day. What befalls us is precisely to continue the struggle for justice until that day and side with the oppressed.”

“The new system that came in with the 24 June elections is based on the more definitive and acute operation of the principle of the separation of powers. Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution, the president is not just the head of the executive, but of the state. The mission of heading the state given to the president is not a threat to the separation of powers. If supremacy is absolutely to be sought in the state system, this can only be the supremacy of national sovereignty.”

“Most of the aspersions levelled at the president who is also the representative of the executive in the new system of administration are baseless. Attacking the president through the judiciary is to directly target the political arena. Those who keep talk of judicial independence on the agenda above all harm the republic. Certain bar associations are provoking the judicial year opening simply on account of the venue. This venue does not belong to me personally. This heroic venue is the home of our nation and all our institutions. I congratulate the Court of Cassation and UTBA presidents for the democratic stance they have displayed against these provocative impositions. I believe that errors of this kind will not be repeated in the future.”

“We are preparing a comprehensive human rights action plan.”

CİRİT: THE JUDICIARY’S QUALITY OF INDEPENDENCE HAS BEEN STRENGTHENED

Court of Cassation President İsmail Rüştü Cirit spoke as follows in his speech which he began by saying, “In making the opening of judicial year, I wish to comment on what where we succeeded and where we were unable to do so over this process:”

“The need for law is based on the notion of order. Establishing a legal order hinders the powerful from exploiting the weak. Nobody will wish for the public power the judiciary exercises to be exercised by a person open to dispute. Consequently, this is dependent on the existence of members of the judiciary who possess high professional and personal skills. The judiciary being independent of all power loci, especially the legislative and executive organ, is the unswerving principle of the rule of law.”

“In conjunction with the passage to the presidential system, a different separation of powers came into being as opposed to the parliamentary system. The judiciary’s quality of independence has been strengthened and the judiciary’s duty of supervision and balance has been reinforced. The attaining of the nine goals envisaged in the Judicial Reform Strategy will lead to a further strengthening of the judicial system. Judges having geographical security is a positive step in terms of strengthening judicial independence.”

“THE EU’S REPORT IS A WORTHLESS PIECE OF PAPER”

Stating that it was important for judicial year openings to be conducted in the presence of the people, with the participation of all parties and in a transparent and democratic manner, Cirit continued his speech as follows:

“The independent judiciary is one of the foundations that keep our republic and state on its feet. The calls and comments from both at home and abroad by top-level political personalities to the courts for them to rule with a certain slant over ongoing investigations even if there are just grounds is incompatible for Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantees the right to a fair trial.”

“Of the former members of the judiciary involved in FETO investigations, case reports have been compiled into 178 people and proceedings have been brought against 175 of them.”

“The EU’s report is a worthless piece of paper. The comments in the EU report, which is part of a campaign to besmirch the Turkish judiciary in the international arena, has led to the EU losing esteem before the Turkish judiciary and public opinion.”

“Judicial independence in Turkey was ranked 111th in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Competitiveness Report. When it comes to Egypt, where the death penalty has become part of daily life, it ranks 29th. As to Saudi Arabia, which tried to conceal the Jamal Khashoggi murder before the eyes of the world, it is shown in 24th place. These two examples alone suffice to portray the legal mindsets of the compilers of the report and how dirty and ugly the propaganda is they are waging against the Turkish judiciary in the international arena.”

FEYZİOĞLU: JUDICIAL PACKAGE MUST BE INTRODUCED AT ONCE

UTBA Chair, Metin Feyzioğlu, said, “The problem of the lawyer and the problem of the citizen are shared, as are their solutions. There are solutions to a significant portion of our problems with his excellency the president’s and our justice minister’s very great support. We are obliged to invite those who wish to assign roles to us that conform to their own ideologies under the quite rigid ideological glasses through which they view the world to think once more. We are independent. We support simply the law and our Republic as defined in Article 2 of our Constitution.”

Saying, “The solution to a significant portion of our problems has been included in the Judicial Reform Strategy Document. I will set out some of these problems along with their solutions,” Feyzioğlu noted, “The Union of Turkish Bar Associations is not the opponent or supporter of any political party. The judicial power represents the defence of three equal founding components.”

Indicating that the Judicial Reform Strategy Document had been compiled with the UTBA’s effective participation, Feyzioğlu said, “The reform packages must be speedily introduced and rapidly brought into implementation.”

The key points from Metin Feyzioğlu’s speech are as follow:

“1. We must all struggle together against our country’s bleeding wound of social violence of which we lawyers are also a target, and violence against women and children. Our aim must be to ensure the presence of a lawyer at the side of the victim as of that first slap, that first act of violence, who will embrace them tightly. This matter transcends parties. It is a national matter. Absolutely no person and no institution suffices on their own. There will be a solution if everyone and all institutions do what befalls them.

2. A professional entrance exam must be introduced immediately in the legal field. It must be a tough exam that gauges knowledge. A bringing of the educational level of law faculties into compliance with the needs of the age will thus be achieved.

3. The opening of new law faculties must be ended until the existing ones attain the desired level.

4. An institution of assistant judge and prosecutor must be introduced. There is a big problem with justice being dispensed by judges and prosecutors having two or three years’ service, that is by inexperience judges and prosecutors, which is the reality of recent times in Turkey. Such an institution will resolve this problem.

5. Discipline must be introduced into the interview implementation in the induction of public staff, including candidate judges and prosecutors. For example, three thousand people shouldn’t be invited for a position into which 500 people will be accepted. It robs the written exam of meaning. Ten or fifteen per cent more than the number to be inducted should be invited to interview based on their written marks. The interviews should be filmed. Transparency should be achieved with each and every name posted on the website of the public body in question. Judicial oversight should thus be made practically possible.

6. About ninety per cent of judgments handed down today attain finality at the appeal stage. A greater percentage of appeal court judgments must be opened up to Court of Cassation review. The Court of Cassation’s precedential court aspect must be strengthened. All kinds of offence relating to the freedom of thought must undergo the Court of Cassation’s review.

7. Ruling in compliance with the European Court of Human Rights’ and Constitutional Court’s individual application principled rulings should be made into the most important criterion in promoting judges.

8. Predicate offences that give rise to the measure of detention being employed as a ready-made penalty should be removed from the law.

9. The VAT burden on citizens arising from the use of lawyers’ services should be alleviated. It is the subject matter of a decree. It can be resolved speedily.

10. The fringe benefit issue of lawyers employed in the public sector and the supplementary scale problem in this regard should finally be resolved.

11. The possibility should be introduced for trainee lawyers to work in the paid employ of lawyers and with insurance. Repayment of training loans should start following work induction and the instalments should also be extended.

12. Preventative lawyering practices aimed at preventing disputes before they arise should be developed. The making of contracts of above a certain amount and contracts relating to real rights over immovable property by means of lawyers and the conducting of certain lawsuits by lawyers should be made compulsory.

13. In labour disputes, we find it wrong in view of the principle of justice and a welfare state for the employee to participate in negotiations without a lawyer at their side in mediation, which is a procedural requirement. We think it is necessary for all employees who so request to be appointed a lawyer by the bar association without investigation being made into their material means. We are prepared to provide professional training to the lawyers appointed in negotiating methods, communication skills and computing employees’ claims. We await a regulation and support from a judicial aid fund in this regard.”

FEYZİOĞLU SPEAKS OF “PERCEPTION OPERATION,” TOO

Ignoring the reactions coming from Court of Cassation and UTBA members as well as 52 bar associations with reference to the judicial year opening being held at the presidential palace, Feyzioğlu commented, “The judiciary is an arena that embraces our 82 million citizens, gives confidence and is accessible. National unity and togetherness is simply only possible if there is a trustworthy judiciary.”

In common with President Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP administrators, describing all criticism as a “perception operation,” Feyzioğlu said, “Various perception operations are being waged against Turkey and what these are targeting is known to us,” and continued:

“The most effective remedy that will prevent foreign public opinion from having a negative impact on our country is to strengthen the institutions that sustain the rule of law. The Judicial Reform Strategy Document is important for this reason. It must be realized. Its shortcomings must also be rectified over the process.”

“BOARD OF JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS SHOULD BE REORGANIZED”

Feyzioğlu recommended a reorganizing of the structure of the Board of Judges and Prosecutors that would bring about the full separation of powers. Feyzioğlu’s recommendation was as follows:

“Determining half the membership of the Board of Judges and Prosecutors with the qualified vote, for example 3/5, of parliament, that is with a high degree of agreement. Under such circumstances, agreement will of necessity be merit based. Determining the remainder of the membership once more with the qualified vote of the general assemblies of the Court of Cassation and Council of State. Also authorizing the General Assembly of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations to elect a certain number of members in the same way. We are most certainly ready to debate all aspects of our proposals.” (EVRENSEL DAILY) 

(Translated by Tim DRAYTON)