Turkey must restore independence of judiciary, U.N. rapporteur says

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, has called on Turkey to urgently take measures to re-establish trust in its judiciary and repair the rule of law, which was damaged during two years of emergency rule following the July 2016 coup attempt. 

Constitutional changes regarding the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, now renamed ‘Council of Judges and Prosecutors’ (CPJ), made during the two-year state of emergency "are not in line with European standards,” García-Sayán said on Sept. 14 in his letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkey’s new executive presidential system, which entered into force after presidential and parliamentary elections last year, has placed vast powers in the hands of Erdoğan, among them the right to appoint members of the powerful CPJ.

"Judicial councils may play a crucial role in guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary and should themselves be independent, i.e. free from any form of interference from the executive and legislative branches," García-Sayán said.

"In order to insulate judicial councils from external interference, politicization and undue pressure, international standards discourage the involvement of political authorities, such as parliament, or the executive at any stage of the selection process," he said.

Once a promising EU candidate country, Turkey has been widely criticised in recent years for undermining the rule of law, particularly due to practices during a two-year emergency rule declared after a coup attempt in 2016. The country ranks 109th out of 126 countries in the 2018-2019 Rule of Law Index, a measure of how the rule of law is perceived in countries around the world by the influential non-profit civil society organisation World Justice Project.

Meanwhile, MEDEL, an NGO of judges and prosecutors associations throughout Europe, criticised European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) President Robert Spano's visit to Turkey, where he met with Erdoğan and other top officials and delivered a speech on the rule of law.

"MEDEL sees with great concern the fact that the President of the ECHR accepted an honorary doctorate from one of the academic institutions that since the failed coup d'etat of July 2016 have dismissed more than 5,000 academics, without any due process or guarantees," it said in a statement.

Spano must be aware of the dramatic situation of the thousands of judges and prosecutors that since 2016 have been persecuted, dismissed and deprived of their property and right to effective justice and fair trial, MEDEL said.