CoE’s Muižnieks expresses concern about new HSYK

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Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights attends a press conference on February 12, 2016 in Warsaw at the end of his four day visit to Poland. / AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI

Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, has expressed concern about the new composition of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), saying it does not offer adequate safeguards for the independence of the judiciary.

Following an April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments, the new HSYK, with seven members elected by Parliament and, for the first time, four members named by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had its first meeting on Wednesday in the presence of Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ and his undersecretary, Kenan İpek, as members.

“With four members appointed directly by the President of Turkey and seven members elected by Parliament without a procedure guaranteeing the involvement of all political parties and interests, I am concerned that the new composition of the HSYK does not offer adequate safeguards for the independence of the judiciary and considerably increases the risk of it being subjected to political influence,” said Muižnieks in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“To avert such risk, European standards foresee that at least half of the members of judicial councils that are in charge of overseeing the professional conduct of judges and prosecutors (including appointments, promotions, transfers, disciplinary measures and dismissals of judges and public prosecutors) should be elected by the judiciary from within the profession,” added Muižnieks.

The CoE commissioner said he would “follow the work of the HSYK and the extent to which it ensures in practice adherence to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, without which there can be no effective protection of human rights in Turkey.”

In December, the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) suspended the observer status of Turkey’s HSYK and excluded it from participation in ENCJ activities for the mass suspension and dismissal of judges and prosecutors and the failure to comply with the European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary.

“The HSYK does not currently comply with the ENCJ Statutes and is no longer an institution which is independent of the executive and legislature ensuring the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice,” said a statement issued following a vote in the ENJC.

According to the t24 news website, the government has dismissed 4,238 of Turkey’s 14,661 judges and prosecutors since a July 15 coup attempt.

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