“I do not want to confuse people with numbers by saying there are this number of cases at the Supreme Court of Appeals. There are many cases at the Supreme Court of Appeals. These cases will be examined and will be concluded. We will finish them all together,” Kaynak said speaking on Monday during a ceremony held to mark the beginning of a vocational training program for 234 judges and prosecutors who will soon begin working in various chambers of the court.
“Laws have been made and we are at a point where words end and work has begun. I expect hard work from you,” Kaynak said as he addressed nearly 230 judges and prosecutors attending the program. The appeals court president was referring to a law approved by Parliament in February that aims to overhaul the high judiciary by opening new chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State.
The changes brought the total number of chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals to 38 from 32 and increase the number of Council of State chambers to 15. The two bodies are currently overwhelmed by an enormous workload of 2 million cases, according to the latest figures.
He recalled a recent visit he paid to a courthouse in the Afşin district of the southern province of Kahramanmaraş. “The judges [at the courthouse] said there are so many cases. We said let’s not let the lamps of courthouses turn off and continue to work. We said let’s work there as well,” he said.
Kaynak also said last week that the court plans to deal with all backlogged cases within three years, with approximately 1,000 cases a year being examined by each of the 820 investigating judges that were hired earlier in the year to deal with the backlog. Around 300 interns at the Supreme Court of Appeals will also read files related to the cases and will assist investigating judges. In addition, the court has requested 200 additional investigating judges from the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to handle cases. In this respect, the court will be able to handle 1 million cases in one year.
HSYK Deputy President Ahmet Hamsici also delivered a speech during the ceremony and said many reforms have been made since 2005 with regards to the judiciary. “The number of chambers and members of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State have been increased. Structural changes were made to the HSYK. But there are still problems concerning whether these changes will be felt by the public.
Trials last long, trials are long, criminal cases are being dropped due to the statute of limitations. We assigned more than 200 investigating judges for this purpose. And now we want these 230 judges and prosecutors to contribute to easing the judicial backlog. In this way, we want to speed up the judiciary,” Hamsici said.
The cumbersome workings of the Turkish judiciary came under scrutiny earlier this year with the implementation of a new law restricting the time a suspect can be kept under arrest while awaiting or standing trial.
According to the change made to Article 102 of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK), the maximum detention period is now three years for crimes under the jurisdiction of high criminal courts, while the maximum period of detention is one-and-a-half years for most crimes not under their jurisdiction. With the enforcement of the law, dozens of suspects, including major terror and murder suspects, have been released pending trial, leading to confusion and controversy amongst the public while exposing the heavy workload of the Supreme Court of Appeals.