The Turkish government is set to gain control over the higher judiciary in Turkey through a new draft bill that will allow the government to bring more people loyal to itself into both the administrative and penal appeals courts.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said the government is working on a draft law in which eight new chambers will be added to the Supreme Court of Appeals and two new chambers will be opened in the Council of State.
Speaking on a news program on the NTV network, Minister Bozdağ noted that the Supreme Court of Appeals currently has 38 chambers, adding: “We [the government] are taking a step that will increase the number of members and chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals, since the court’s high workload has made it necessary.”
The draft bill, submitted to Parliament on Friday with signatures from ruling party lawmakers, will increase the number of chambers in Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State and assign new members to the courts of appeal. The government has made it clear that it is not comfortable with the rulings rendered by courts of appeal in the higher judiciary and that it wants to consolidate the control it has already established in the lower courts.
After winning a majority in the elections for members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) the Justice and Development Party (AK party) now wants to elect loyalist members to the additional chamber proposed in the bill. According to the billsubmitted to Parliament,the AK party will be able to assign 128 new members to the Supreme Court of Appeals and 39 members to the Council of State.
Experts have said the proposed draft bill, which shows signs of becoming an omnibus bill, will turn into a disaster for the future of Turkey’s judiciary. Ahmet Gündel, a former prosecutor, says the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State are currently independent of the government. Gündel went on to say, “This draft law has only one meaning: the government will take over the judiciary with this package.”
Gündel went on to say: “Both the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State have been known to make decisions independently of the government and that this has caused problems for the ruling party in the past. The government intends to use the HSYK to manipulate the lower courts and the new package to assign loyalists to spots in the higher judiciary. Unfortunately, we are going through a process whereby both the local courts and the higher judiciary are being subordinated to the government. There cannot be a bigger disaster for the country than this.”
The government already took over the control of the key judicial council, the HSYK, through the elections in mid-October. Members of the Unity in the Judiciary Platform (YBP), sponsored by the government, won the elections, raising concerns about increased partisanship in the judiciary.
The HSYK is the country’s key judicial council and is responsible for appointments, promotions and removal of personnel within the judiciary. Since a major corruption and bribery investigation became public on Dec. 17, 2013, the AK Party has been working to reshape the judiciary and justice system according to its desires so as to prevent the investigations from deepening and to halt the launch of similar probes.