Turkey should prioritise judicial independence in new reform strategy - European Commission

A spokesperson from the European Commission on Friday said Turkey should address problems concerning the independence of the judiciary in its new judicial reform strategy which will be unveiled on May 30, Euronews reported.

Turkish Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül said on Thursday that the new reform package would ensure the basic rights and freedoms, as the country had been leaving behind the period after a failed coup attempt in 2016 and the two-year emergency rule declared afterwards.

The European Union in its progress reports have harshly criticised the erosion in the rule of law in Turkey, while it called for changes in Turkish anti-terror law in relations to negotiations over granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel in Europe.

“The Judicial Reform Strategy Document is long-awaited,” Euronews quoted a European Commission spokesperson as saying. “Immediately after the coup attempt in 2016, we have expressed the political pressure on judges and prosecutors and mass dismissals, as well as the serious setback in the independence of the judiciary,” the EU official said.

The senior official said Turkey’s upcoming document on judicial reform would serve as a test for the country’s disputed judicial independence.

According to the EU official, a detailed evaluation of the European bodies on Turkey’s judicial system will be included in the European Commission’s annual report on Turkey expected to be released on May 29.

“In relation to anti-terror law and visa-free travel, the EU has called on Turkey to review the issue,” the spokesperson said, adding that the review aimed at harmonising Turkish law with EU standards.

Turkey ranks 109th out of 126 countries in the 2018-2019 Rule of Law Index prepared by the influential non-profit civil society organisation World Justice Project. The main reasons for Turkey’s low position on the index are listed as the lack of constraints on government powers, a problem related to a severe lack of independent auditing and judicial checks, according to WJP.