Press release on the latest EU Turkey Progress Report 21.11.2016

EU Turkey Progress Report was published on 9/11/2016. It was deemed necessary to release the following statement in order to inform the public correctly since the mentioned report includes comments which do not comply with the reality.

In the Progress Report, the bloody coup attempt of 15 July 2016 was neglected in the comments and evaluations made with respect to FETO/PDY Terrorist Organization, which has led to disappointment. Indeed,

246 citizens were martyred, thousands were wounded, many important institutions, notably the Grand National Assembly of Turkey which is the symbol of democracy and the Presidential Complex were targeted by the attacks of warcraft, war helicopters, tanks and other heavy weapons in the coup attempt staged on 15 July 2016 by the terrorists who were FETO/PDY members against our democracy and the rule of law. This coup attempt failed thanks to the outstanding courage and heroism shown by our noble nation which sincerely believed in democracy and the rule of law, by diving under tanks when necessary.

It has long been known that the perpetrator of the mentioned coup attempt, FETO/PDY Terrorist Organization infiltrated into a lot of strategically important state institutions, notably into the army, the security forces and the judiciary and that its members were appointed to significant duties and relevant investigations have been carried out in this matter. In addition to other strong evidence, taking into account the confessions of the judges and public prosecutors who were members of this organization, which can also be easily accessed in the written, visual and social media, it is clearly understood that FETO/PDY terrorist organization used several judges and public prosecutors as weapon through such security measures as false documents and digital evidence, anonymous witnesses, illegal wiretapping and technical surveillance. While the question was crystal clear, the evaluations made in this matter were not included in the report and this structure was not accepted as a terrorist organization, which drew sorrowful reactions.

An organized act in which modern warcrafts bombed the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, war helicopters opened fire on innocent civilians and tanks ran over citizens was not referred to as a "terrorist movement" but "Gülen movement", which cannot possibly comply with European values and standards based on democracy and the rule of law. It should be regretfully mentioned that the brutal attack launched on 15 July 2016 was not timely and strongly condemned by our Western friends in contrast to what is indicated in the Report, which has led to deep disappointment on this matter. This disappointment makes it more difficult to consider that the relevant institutions of the European Union made sincere statements with respect to "human rights", "democracy" and "rule of law" in order to protect the rights of those who staged the coup attempt or the members of FETO/PDY terrorist organization and it seriously harms Turkey's well-intentioned efforts in this field.

Even though justice actors in Turkey including Supreme Courts indicated that they were open to any kind of cooperation and evidence sharing, despite the unilateral propagandas, groundless allegations and complaints of this structure organized in almost 160 countries, the statements and comments made without taking the views of those do not comply with any measure of justice and conscience, notably the principle of equality of arms.

In the report, the structural changes which had to be introduced in the Court of Cassation since the  regional courts of justice started operating on 20 July 2016 were referred to as the discharge of some members of the Supreme Court for political reasons. These evaluations are not related to the reality as indicated below. 

The duty of the supreme courts is to ensure that the law is applied equally and consistently in the country and to verify the conformity of the decisions with the law. As a supreme court, the Court of Cassation can perform this duty similarly to its equivalent institutions in European countries only if the regional courts of justice are established and start operating. It is extremely exceptional to see a judicial system without appellate instance in countries including European countries. One of these exceptions was Turkey until 20 July 2016.

Two stage procedure is guaranteed under the Protocol No. 7 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, lack of appellate instance in Turkey has been a matter of criticism for the institutions of the European Union and the European Union projects have been implemented with the intent of establishing the regional courts of justice, even two regional courts of justice have been built by the funds provided within the framework of this project. On the same grounds, the legal substructure of the regional courts of justice is laid down by the Law dated 26/9/2004 numbered 5235. Despite such legal and de facto situation, the allegation that  the comprehensive and systematic works which have been carried out in cooperation with the bodies of the European Union and the Council of Europe for twelve years have been neglected and the matter has been resolved promptly is irrelevant to any kind of concrete fact.

The regional courts of justice in charge of appeal proceedings started operating, which had two most important consequences: the finalization of approximately 90% of the incoming files to the Court of Cassation at the appeal instance and the supreme court's resort to only judicial review. This decrease in the workload indispensably reduces the number of members and turns the Court of Cassation literally into a supreme court setting a precedent. Moreover, according to our evaluations, an example of a supreme court including 516 members does not exist in the world, even the countries of the European Union.

Even if the regional courts of justice did not start operating until 20 July 2016, this situation and the delay in this regard cannot be interpreted to mean that the members of the supreme court legitimately anticipated that these courts were not going to start operating. This does not have any aspect which violates the principle of legal security and stability. Furthermore, the duration of the membership of the Court of Cassation was limited to 12 years and it was envisaged that a person could not be elected for the second time, which strengthened the independence of the judiciary and was an appropriate regulation, providing uniformity regarding the tenure of the members of the Constitutional Court.

Within the framework of the statements above, as far as the amendments introduced by the Law No. 6723 are concerned from a wholistic viewpoint, it cannot be degraded to the purpose of ending the office of only a specific number of members of the supreme court (provided that their profession as judges and prosecutors is reserved). Therefore, even though the regional courts of justice, the absence of which was previously criticized by the bodies of the European Union, started functioning, the meaning ascribed to the structural changes with respect to these courts in the Report is not clearly understood.

The statements supporting the attempts to misinform the public regarding the place of the opening ceremony for the legal year do not comply with the nature and seriousness of the Report. Indeed;

As known by the public, the Legal Year Opening Ceremony held on 1 September each year is organized by the Court of Cassation. Preparations were initiated in April for the opening ceremony of the legal year 2016-2017, the hall of a hotel in Ankara was reserved and all invitations were sent. However, after the President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations and over seventy bar presidents visited the President on 16/8/2016, debates were held for the opening of the legal year “to be held at the National Congress and Culture Center” and the developments were publicly announced by the press release dated 29 August 2016 (the mentioned press release is available on www.yargitay.gov.tr). While the real situation is crystal clear regarding the opening ceremony of the legal year, the statements made in the Report based on prejudiced and wrong information do not comply with the measures of conscience and justice.

In the report, the allegations that the Court of Cassation was under the influence of the executive power are unacceptable.

The Court of Cassation has been among the strong institutional culture and the milestones of the society and state since 1868. The members of supreme courts participate in the decision making process as a necessity of the nature and field of activity of this institution. It is an integral part of the supreme court culture that the decisions are taken in the chambers and general assemblies by freely expressing any kind of views and opinions with a democratic understanding and deliberating-discussing them with all their dimensions and it is necessary to receive the approval of more than half of the Grand General Assembly especially in order to be elected to several administrative and representative authorities. These are the examples of an objective, independent and democratic functioning system at a supreme court. Despite this fact, it is a matter of concern that the Court of Cassation is under the authority of the executive power, which overshadows the objectivity of the mentioned Report and does not go beyond being a slogan.

Respectfully announced to the public.

Judiciary of Turkey