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Democracy & Good Governance

Detention warrants issued for 79 teachers on Teachers Day

As Turkey celebrates the Teachers Day, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Friday issued detention warrants for a total of 79 teachers due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the report, all of the 79 teachers were dismissed by the government following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Teachers Day in Turkey is celebrated on Nov. 24, which marks the day when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, was declared the nation’s head teacher 86 years ago.

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government of mounting the attempted coup last year, but the movement strongly denies any involvement.

Amid an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 16 said 48,739 people had been jailed and eight holdings and 1,020 companies seized as part of operations into the movement.

The Turkish Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15 of last year through government decrees issued as part of a state of emergency.

Source: https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/11/24/detention-warrants-issued-for-99-teachers-on-teachers-day/

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Report exposes death from torture of Turkish teacher in police custody

A new report from the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “Tortured to Death” exposes the case of 42-year-old history teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu, who died after enduring 13 days of torture and abuse in police detention in İstanbul.
The report details every day he was kept in custody, where he was repeatedly beaten by his interrogators. The government documents, medical reports, independent opinions and witness statements obtained by SCF and revealed in the report show his death was not due to natural causes.

“The details of this single case with hitherto unknown facts about Açıkkollu’s death have really shaken our investigators, and we have decided to dedicate this report to his memory to show the world what is taking place under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s brutally oppressive regime,” Abdullah Bozkurt, the president of SCF, said.

“He was telling doctors every day what he was going through, and the prosecutor’s office was getting copies of these records on a daily basis. Yet he was time and again sent back to detention to face a new round of torture that eventually claimed his life,”’ he added.

The report also exposes the names of the police officers who were present in the building at the time of Açıkkollu’s death and urges the Turkish government to hold to account those who were responsible for his death.

Unfortunately, the terrible saga of Açıkkollu’s family was far from over even after his death as authorities neither arranged for a hearse to transport him nor provided embalming of the body, which are standard services in Turkey for all deceased. He was hauled in a utility vehicle to the cemetery where the government imam refused to lead a prayer service. His wife, Mümüne Açıkkollu, was also briefly detained afterwards by the same prosecutor who ordered the detention of her husband.
The public prosecutor dropped the probe into torture allegations although he had more than enough evidence of torture according to the documents provided by government-designated health facilities. Several witnesses came forward and testified to torture. After a long legal challenge, the prosecutor had to open another probe, but there was no progress reported on the second probe, either.

Turkish authorities continue to deny that there is torture in Turkey while blocking the publication of a report by the Council of Europe Anti-Torture Committee (CPT), which visited Turkey for a fact-finding mission in September 2016.

The accumulation of overwhelming evidence in this case is quite valuable considering that the police in Turkey often try to cover up the commission of crimes. Authorities tamper with evidence and doctors’ records and ensure that the text of witness accounts, autopsies and medical reports reflect the official version of the detainee’s death.

Deaths in detention and prisons due to torture, abuse and ill treatment have become a recurring theme in Turkey with close to 100 cases reported as suspicious deaths and suicides in the last 16 months alone.

Many human rights monitoring groups have documented cases of torture and ill treatment of detainees that suggest a widespread, systematic and deliberate torture by the government of President Erdoğan.

SCF has already published several reports confirming that such cases have been taking place in detention centers and jails or sometimes in black sites that were used as mass holding facilities for a large number of detainees without due process.

Source: https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/11/21/report-exposes-death-from-torture-of-turkish-teacher-in-police-custody/

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Demise of Turkish Judiciary

Erdogan’s Government Established Political Control over Turkish Judiciary and Selective Application of Law

Following the attempted coup, very extensive suspensions, dismissals, and arrests took place in Turkey. There are numerous reports of extremely serious human rights violations, including alleged widespread ill-treatment and torture of detainees. The crackdown has continued since and has been broadened to all opposition voices. The measures affected the whole spectrum of society, with a particular impact on the judiciary, police, gendarmerie, military, civil service, local authorities, academia, teachers, lawyers, the media and the business community. Human rights authorities across the World are gravely concerned about the degradation of the rule of law and democracy unfolding in Turkey.

Under the rule of law, everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty. In Turkey, it’s now the opposite. People from all across the ideological spectrum have been baselessly charged with crimes and expected to prove their innocence. If there is no rule of law, then there is neither order nor democracy. Turkey is, unfortunately, moving away from democracy and heading toward
authoritarianism.

Turkey ranked among the Worst 15 among 113 Countries on Rule of Law Index published in 2016 by the World Justice Project, trailing Iran and Russia.
Source: https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/RoLI_Final-Digital_0.pdf

WJP Rule of Law Index
The WJP Rule of Law Index provides original, impartial data on how the rule of law is experienced in everyday life in 113 countries around the globe. It is the most comprehensive index of its kind. To date, more than 270,000 citizens and experts have been interviewed worldwide. Index findings have been referenced by heads of state, chief justices, business leaders, public officials, and the press, including media outlets in over 125 countries worldwide.

“No Rule of Law” brings “Absolute Human Rights Violations”
The following are excerpts from expert comments and watchdog reports on the establishment of political control over Turkish judiciary by Turkey’s ruling party:

U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report 2014:
Impunity and weak administration of justice: The judiciary and law enforcement agencies were politicized, giving the appearance of impropriety and bias. The government reassigned thousands of police and prosecutors in response to an anti-corruption investigation they were conducting of a number of senior government officials and their families, and the prosecutors who initiated the investigation were suspended. The government closed the investigation and destroyed evidence that was gathered; many police officers involved in the investigation were accused publicly of a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Very few police were prosecuted for excessive force that led to dozens of deaths and scores of injuries among demonstrators in 2013 and 2014. The executive branch took greater control over the bodies responsible for judicial appointments and discipline and created a new set of courts in which single judges wield extraordinary powers and to which it assigned politically sensitive cases, which had a chilling effect on potential future investigations of politically connected persons. Wide leeway granted to prosecutors and judges contributed to inconsistent court verdicts. Authorities applied the broad antiterror law extensively with little transparency and continued to engage in arbitrary arrests, hold detainees for lengthy and indefinite periods, and conduct extended trials.
Source: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/236798.pdf
http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/ – wrapper

Human Rights Watch, World Report 2015, Chapter on Turkey:
“In the name of reducing the alleged influence of the Gülen movement in the justice system, the government took steps to bring the police, prosecutors, and judges under greater executive control. The government oversaw the mass reassignment or demotion of judges, prosecutors, and police, including all those involved in the corruption investigations. It adopted a law in February to restructure the Higher Board of Judges and Prosecutors (Hâkimler ve Savcılar Yüksek Kurulu, HSYK) responsible for the administration of the judiciary, to tie it closer to the executive, and created in July a new category of criminal judges of the peace responsible for key decisions at the criminal investigation stage.
In April, the Constitutional Court partially quashed key provisions of the HSYK law concerning enhanced powers for the Minister of Justice on the grounds that they violated the separation of powers in important respects, threatened judicial independence, and opened the way to political pressure on the judiciary.”
Source: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/turkey

Amnesty International: Annual Report 2015/16, Chapter on Turkey
“Politically motivated appointments and transfers of judges and prosecutors continued throughout the year, wreaking havoc on a judiciary already lacking independence and impartiality. Criminal Courts of Peace – with jurisdiction over the conduct of criminal investigations, such as pre-charge detention and pre-trial detention decisions, seizure of property and appeals against these decisions – came under increasing government control.”
Source: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/

European Union Progress Report
“Independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers have been undermined since 2014 and judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure.”
Source:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/10/turkey-criticised-over-media-freedoms-and-judicial-independence-in-eu-report

British Legal Experts Lord Woolf, Sir Jeffrey Jowell, Sir Edward Garnier:
“Since December 2013, the government has taken unprecedented steps to exert executive control over Turkey’s judiciary, to interfere with and derail the corruption investigation, to stifle criticism in the media and on the Internet.“
“The government has brought the main institution responsible for the judiciary, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, under its control by purging its members of anyone suspected of opposing the AKP government.”
Source:http://www.onebrickcourt.com/files/REPORT_ON_THE_RULE_OF_LAW_FINAL_FINAL_240815_27622.pdf

Ergun Ozbudun, Professor of Political Science and Constitutional Law at Sehir University:
“AKP government’s establishment of its control over the judiciary will certainly lead to a wider use of selective application of the law”. In Pending Challenges in Turkey’s Judiciary, January 2015 Policy Brief published jointly by Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome, Italy.
Source: http://www.iai.it/en/pubblicazioni/pending-challenges-turkeys-judiciary

Hasim Kilic, Former Chief Justice at Turkey’s Constitutional Court:
Constitutional Court chairman Hasim Kilic, who announced he was retiring a month early, said the government’s “extraordinary interest” in the court’s affairs was undermining judicial independence. “Everybody knows the political views of judges and prosecutors, even in the remotest villages of the country. We cannot move forward with such a judiciary,” Kilic said. “The judiciary is not an instrument of revenge, it is not anyone’s tool to achieve their aims,” he told a news conference in Ankara.
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/11/turkish-courts-being-turned-into-revenge-instruments-says-outgoing-top-judge

Hikmet Sami Turk, Former Minister of Justice:
“The judicial system that the government is trying to establish is unconstitutional and against the basic principles of law.”
Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_pm-erdogan-confesses-to-creating-super-judges-for-anti-hizmet-plot_353671.html

Riza Turmen, a Former Judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR):
“Turkey has a serious regime problem; it is not a democracy – you can probably call it ‘elected authoritarianism.’ It is a majoritarian and hegemonic system,”
“There is a structural problem regarding the establishment of magistrate courts (penal courts of peace or criminal justices of peace, or sulh ceza hakimlikleri in Turkish) that was created with Law No. 6545, “The law amending the Turkish Criminal Code and other laws” adopted on June 18, 2014, with an omnibus law that was adopted in 2014. The creation of such special courts is incompatible with the principle of natural justice enshrined in Article 37 of the Constitution [which states: “no one shall be put to trial before a body other than the court he/she is legally subject to. No extraordinary judicial bodies shall be established that would lead to putting a person to trial before a body other than the court he/she is legally subject to.”]
These special magistrate courts have extensive powers to take all decisions related to the conduct of criminal investigations, such as detention, arrest, release and seizure of property. It is almost impossible to appeal their decisions because there is a closed-circuit system contrary to fair trial principles. Only another special magistrate court can review their decisions. As long as those magistrate courts exist, the chaotic judicial decisions will continue.”
Source: http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_former-ecthr-judge-turmen-journalist-police-officers-should-have-been-released_379690.html

Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights:
The top human rights official at a pan-European body has added his voice to critics of newly adopted legislation tightening government control over Turkey’s legal system, even though Ankara defended its move and said it had no alternative.
“This will significantly increase the influence of the executive, raising more concerns about undue political interference on the judiciary,”
Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6e6b4b0e-97fa-11e3-8c0e-00144feab7de.html

“Defend Lawyer’s” Statement on The Independence of Judiciary in Turkey:
Source: https://defendlawyers.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/turkeyusa-resolution-of-abaesq-american-bar-association-and-massbar-on-independence-of-judiciary-mass-arrest-and-dismissal-of-judges-and-lawyers/https://defendlawyers.wordpress.com/

American Bar Association’s (ABA) Resolution on Mass Detention
Source:https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/2016%20Annual%20Resolutions/10b.pdfhttp://www.abajournal.com/news/article/aba_condemns_mass_detentions_and_arrests_of_turkish_legal_community/

“Defend Lawyer’s” Statement on Mass Arrests and Dismissal of Judges in TR
Source: https://defendlawyers.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/turkeyusa-resolution-of-abaesq-american-bar-association-and-massbar-on-independence-of-judiciary-mass-arrest-and-dismissal-of-judges-and-lawyers/

Law Magazine of Boston College on Turkey
Source: http://lawmagazine.bc.edu/2016/08/bc-law-community-calls-for-rights-of-detainees-after-turkish-coup/

“International Commission of Jurists” Report on Turkey Judiciary
Source: www.icj.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Turkey-Judiciary-in-Peril-Publications-Reports-Fact-Findings-Mission-Reports-2016-ENG.pdf

Washington Post’s report on Turkey Judiciary
Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/turkeys-suspension-of-thousands-of-judges-marked-the-start-of-a-widespread-purge/2016/07/20/dbf79e18-4c50-11e6-bf27-405106836f96_story.html?utm_term=.0df19a75cd0c
https://www.rferl.org/a/turkey-us-judge-says-erdogan-took-over judiciary/28076774.htmlhttp://www.rechtersvoorrechters.nl/english/

Texas Bar Associations Statement on Turkey Judiciary
Source:https://www.texasbar.com/Content/NavigationMenu/NewsandPublications/TexasBarJournal1/OnlineMaterial/Pena.pdf

Joint Statement by European Judges, Journalists, Lawyers
Source: http://europeanjournalists.org/blog/2017/04/05/joint-statement-by-lawyers-judges-and-journalists-on-the-ongoing-crackdown-on-the-rule-of-law-in-turkey

“Where-ever law ends, Tyranny begins”
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, 168

Download pdf version: Factsheet Political Control over Turkish Jud. Updated 10.29.2017

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Turkey Slips to 99th Place in 113-Country in the Rule of Law Index

Turkey has dropped by eight places from last year in the WJP Rule of Law Index 2016, released today by the World Justice Project (WJP).

Ranked in 80th place out of 102 countries in 2015, Turkey slipped to number 99 out of 113 nations in the 2016 report. It came in 13th among the 13 countries in its region, Eastern Europe & Central Asia, in total score, comprising, in descending order of overall scores, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia FYR, Belarus, Albania, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

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Politicians react against move to frame Gülen movement as “terrorist organization”

A number of politicians have spoken out against politically motivated move to frame Gülen movement — a grassroots initiative comprising people inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen – as a “terrorist organization.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Friday that he is expecting a Cabinet decision that will officially declare sympathizers of the Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization” in order to put them on trial, in what is widely considered a move by the president of acting like the judiciary.

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High judiciary members join Erdoğan in celebrations for Ahilik week

High judiciary members joined President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in celebrations for Ahilik week in Kırşehir province on Friday, raising another question on the independency of the judiciary.

The heads of Supreme Court of Appeals, Council of State and Court of Accounts had also harvested tea along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit to Rize province last Saturday.

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High judiciary members harvest tea with Erdoğan

High judiciary members, including the heads of Supreme Court of Appeals, Council of State and Court of Accounts, harvested tea along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit to Rize province last Saturday.

A video showing Erdoğan and the judiciary members harvesting tea in President’s hometown, Rize caused some critics to question the independency of the judiciary in Turkey.

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Whistleblower reveals Erdogan’s widespread illegal arms trade

A Turkish whistleblower has revealed that the Turkish government is involved in a massive arms trade and huge sums of cash transfers disguised as humanitarian aid, feeding radical groups in Syria and benefitting from the trade financially.

Fuat Avni, a Twitter user with nearly 3 million followers, took on Twitter on Thursday to report how Turkish senior officials have been shipping huge cache of arms and big sums of money through air and sea from Libya to war-stricken countries such as Ukraine and Syria.Avni has a credible record of uncovering corruption and irregularities rampant among the government officials. He claims to be in the inner circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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