Judges in Turkey have been obliged to impose self-censorship due to government pressure and issue their verdicts according to the expectations of the presidency, the head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has said, amid discussions over the impartiality of the judicial system.
“Judges have come to a point where they can no longer hand judgements in line with their conscience in a country under a one-man regime. They impose self-censorship. They are concerned about angering the person at the presidency with his or her verdict. They either delay the verdicts or they issue them in line with the expectation of the person in the palace,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told his parliamentary group on March 7.
Kılıçdaroğlu referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the person in the presidential palace without giving his name.
“Is there justice in Turkey? No, my friends. No single person can argue there is justice in this country,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, recalling his “Justice March” from Ankara to Istanbul in mid-2017.
“They asked: ‘Why do you walk?’ but they never said: ‘There is justice in this country so don’t walk.’ Because they also know there is no justice here.”
Kılıçdaroğlu recalled a recent panel held by the Supreme Court of Appeals where Erdoğan delivered a speech admitting there was a justice problem in Turkey.
“There is not just one problem but many problems within the justice system. If there were only one issue, we would say: ‘Okay let’s deal with it.’ But there is no justice. What are you talking about? Is there a judicial hierarchy? No. A judge of a lower court can defy a ruling of the Constitutional Court,” he said.
Many judges challenge the judicial system and hierarchy as they believe they receive their power from the political authority, Kılıçdaroğlu said, stressing that millions of people in the country suffer from injustice.
Judges have been instructed by the Justice Ministry to get consent from the Judges and Prosecutors’ Council (HSK) before releasing people that have been tried in cases related with the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to a brochure distributed to judges in April 2017.
“What does it say about judges and prosecutors? ‘When it comes to a decision of release, the decision will be made after consultations with the HSK.’ It means: ‘As a judge, you first have to ask me before making a decision to release someone,’” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He recalled article 138 of the constitution, which states that no judges and prosecutors can be put under pressure, in the line with principlies of impartial justice.