Situation in Turkey

Coup d’etat in Turkey has only just begun

Cover page of today's newspaper Politika with the article on Turkish coupIn the past 21 months in Turkey, nearly 9.000 magistrates (out of around 15.000) who dared to protect basic rights and freedoms and to adjudicate in accordance to the law and their own conscience, even in the politically sensitive cases, thus including those affecting the family or the Turkish president himself, have been transferred in the areas thousands of kilometres away from their permanent residences. Many of the magistrates had been separated from their children and spouses, who remained employed in the cities they lived together until that moment. For many, it was the second or third reallocation in two years.

Tectonic changes that have been devastating Turkish judiciary for years will leave decades of negative consequences. Here is only one example for which they are being undertaken. Controversial plan for demolition of Gezi Park in Istanbul, which had been a trigger to large Turkey-wide protests against the government in the summer of 2013, was blocked by a decision by a local court and the Council of State upheld the ruling. Later, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality requested a review of the judgment. The review was up to the same chamber of the Council of State, but its composition had in the meantime changed following the 2014 amendment. With three newly appointed judges versus two old ones, the chamber ruled in favor of the municipality, reopening the door for the politically explosive development plan. As a result thereupon, president Erdoğan is again vowing that the project will go ahead - a construction of historical military barracks in Taksim. At the same time, since decisions of the Constitutional Court in Turkey do not have retroactive effect, the consequeces of any decision, any appointment or dismissal, will be annulled.

Two weeks ago, in the night of the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul, a law was passed in Turkey according to which, the day of its entry into force would seize tenures of more than 700 judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the State Council, setting the overall number of judges in these courts to drop from 516 to 200 in the Supreme Court of Appeals and from 195 to 90 in the State Council. In addition, 11 members Higher Electoral Board, which is responsible for election security and decides objections during elections would be similarly removed from. Only the two presidents of the mentioned courts would remain on their functions, the two who followed president Erdoğan in May and applauded obediently. Sami Selçuk, former president of the Supreme Court of Appeals stated a less then a month ago: “Such changes could be found only in times of military coup. In a normal legal order, no one can even dare to think of [such changes]”.

Today, on 16th July, our Turkish friends, magistrates, one by one, said their goodbyes to us, their colleagues and friends, magistrates from Europe. They left their children with their relatives and waited at their home, with their spouses, to be arrested. We remained in front of the screens of our computers, powerless and defeated.

Not even twelve hours had passed since the attempt of military coup, and 2.745 magistrates were already dismissed. 541 judges of administrative courts were dismissed, out of 1.500 of them. Those were the ones who would decide on legality of acts and decisions of Turkish state bodies which will be undertaken in the upcoming days, weeks, months. 48 judges of the State Council were also dismissed, which is more than a half of them, those who would decide on appeals against decisions of administrative courts. 140 of 150 judges of the Cassation Court were dismissed. Five judges, members of the HSYK - Turkish High Council of Judiciary were dismissed, who alongside two members chosen by the country’s President, represent the most important, second chamber of the HSYK which renders the decisions concerning disciplinary responsibility and dismissal of magistrates. Arrest warrants were issued for all 2.745 dissmissed magistrates.

It seems that we misunderstood that, in the night of Friday and Saturday 15th and 16th July, a military coup was attempted by the Turkish military. Based on the swiftness of the reaction of the Turkish authorities and a number of dismissed magistrates who will be arrested in upcoming hours, it appears that the overthrow of the government in Turkey was attempted by the Turkish magistrates. Or, perhaps, the order of moves and the list of those waiting to be arrested, which look like a plan created in advance, do tell about something else?

Dragana Boljević
President of Judges’ Associaiton of Serbia
Secretary General of MEDEL - Magistrats européens pour la démocratie et les libertés

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