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Head of İstanbul Bar Association: No rule of law in Turkey

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Chairman of the İstanbul Bar Association Mehmet Durakoğlu has warned against the threat of political favoritism in the judiciary and said there is no rule of law in Turkey.

Durakoğlu’s remarks came on Tuesday during an interview with the Cumhuriyet daily following the opening of the new judicial year in Ankara.

Referring to government decrees issued under a state of emergency declared in the wake of a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Durakoğlu argued that Turkey is no longer committed to the rule of law.

“Turkey has today lost its status as a state under the rule of law, and the reason for this is OHAL [the state of emergency], which was declared after July 15; the KHKs [government decrees] issued as a result of that; and Turkey’s high court decisions, which have halted the monitoring of the constitutionality of KHKs. Until this status is reacquired, I believe it is not possible for the rule of law and democracy to function in Turkey.”

Underlining that Turkey is going through the most serious judicial crisis of its history due to political favoritism in the judiciary, initially ensured by a constitutional referendum held in 2010, Durakoğlu noted that that majority of people do not trust the justice system.

“After July 15 [coup attempt in 2016] one-third of judges and prosecutors were dismissed, and one-quarter of them were imprisoned. This was caused by the 2010 referendum. If the Turkish people had not voted ‘yes’ in the 2010 referendum, there would have been no July 15 coup in Turkey.”

The İstanbul Bar Association released a statement on Tuesday on the opening of the new judicial year and criticized the ongoing state of emergency and government decrees, saying the government is using them to instruct the judiciary.

Turkish Bar Association President Metin Feyzioğlu, who did not attend the opening of the new judicial year, also confirmed that faith in the judiciary has never been lower in Turkey.

Referring to arbitrary practices and political favoritism in the judiciary, Feyzioğlu said: “This situation has become dangerous enough to threaten the existence of the Turkish Republic. ‘The principle of merit,’ which means someone with the requisite competence is appointed to the job he deserves, has been replaced by ‘loyalty to the people who are in power’.”

During the judicial year opening ceremony in 2014, a quarrel between Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Feyzioğlu erupted after Feyzioğlu, during his speech, strongly criticized Erdoğan and the government for intervening in the judicial system.

In 2016 the ceremony was held at the presidential complex, where a president, Erdoğan, for the first time delivered a speech at the event. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), bar associations in Ankara, İstanbul and the Aegean city of İzmir, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) refused to attend the ceremony due to the change of venue.

The ceremony once again was held at Supreme Court of Appeals this year.

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