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June 11, 2012, Monday

Is there judicial tutelage?

Like anywhere else in the world, the judiciary remains a mystery in Turkey as well. The ongoing investigations, arrests and relevant judgments occupy a central place on the daily agenda. Trials are practically being held on TV programs. Judicial decisions are being criticized and the evidence is reviewed on these shows. Politicians blame the judiciary in times of crisis. The opposition accuses the judiciary of politicization and of acting in favor of the political administration. As evidenced in recent statements by the prime minister, the ruling party accuses the judiciary of tutelage over politics.

The primary reason for the attempts to abolish special courts is the disagreement between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the judiciary over the distribution of powers. The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) crisis was the initial step of this disagreement and row. Parliament made a law to save the MİT undersecretary from prosecution. Subsequently, the row has become stronger, as seen by the intention of the government to abolish special courts.

Who is right in this discussion? Is the judiciary really trying to create a system of tutelage over the government? The judiciary is unable to defend itself because it does not have an organized structure. However, it is also obvious that the power hierarchy and distribution in Turkey has changed. Aside from all these criticisms, the judiciary is starting to assume its original mission and responsibilities.

The military has acted as a guardian over Parliament, the government as well as the judiciary. And when military tutelage ended, the government, as well as the judiciary started to act on its own initiative. The judicial oligarchy that used to serve the military has collapsed. The judicial system has become more democratic subsequent to the changes made to the judicial mechanism by the 2010 referendum. When the judiciary became independent and impartial, it first questioned the military tutelage and attempted to remove it from its sphere. The Ergenekon and Sledgehammer (Balyoz) investigations referred to the judiciary’s struggle against illegal acts by the military. After dealing with the military authority, the judiciary took action against illegal elements within civilian authority. The recent developments actually refer to a future balance of powers and judicial checks consistent with the rule of law. The judiciary is doing its job. And the government is disturbed by this judicial check.

The judiciary is a tough profession in Turkey. The prosecutors and judges work in remote parts of Turkey and their success in cities mostly depends on this performance in the rural areas. In these rural places, the judges live in isolation. They prefer a secluded life in an attempt to preserve the dignity of their profession. In financial terms, the judiciary is dependent upon the government and Parliament. The judicial budget is planned and approved by the executive branch. The judges and prosecutors are rarely engaged in corruption.

The brief interview by Ömer Şahin with the chair of the Supreme Court of Appeals that appeared in the Radikal daily summarizes the whole situation. The head of the court, which serves as the top judicial institution in Turkey, does not use the car or lodging his judicial office entitles him to. He lives by middle-class standards. The judges observe these standards in order to preserve the image and dignity of their profession. There is no judicial tutelage over the political administration. Quite the contrary, the judiciary is becoming more independent vis-à-vis other institutions and powers within the state. In its decisions, the government represents 50 percent of society whereas the judiciary delivers justice on behalf of the entire nation while checking these decisions.

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