Controversial judicial reform passes parliament, CHP appeals to Constitutional Court

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CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu

Turkish parliament on Thursday passed a highly controversial legislation that stipulates redesigning the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State by demoting or dismissing hundreds of senior judicial members, leading the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

CHP Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Levent Gök told the media that the newly enacted law is “null and void,” as it would enable the government to determine top judges in the country’s highest courts. Gök explained that the law will lead to dismissal of all the current senior judges at the Supreme Court of Appeals, as well as the Council of State, and the new judges for the positions will be selected by the government.

According to Gök, the move is an act of hijacking authority by the government and drifting Turkey away from rule of law. Ahead of the party’s appeal, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu penned a letter to the head of the Constitutional Court, expressing his concern that the principle of separation of powers is being violated with the new judicial reform.

With the new law on redesigning the top judiciary, the number of chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals will drop from 46 to 24, half of which will be criminal chambers. Also the number of judges and prosecutors serving for the Supreme Court of Appeals, which is currently 516, will be reduced to 200.

Earlier this week, the Turkish Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV) and the Union of Judges delivered a joint press statement, saying that judicial independence is being compromised with the new bill.

Metin Feyzioğlu — the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) –, Murat Arslan — the president of YARSAV – and Professor Sami Selçuk — the Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Appeals – also previously responded harshly to the bill, arguing that it is an attempt to refurnish the top judiciary with pro-government judges and prosecutors.

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