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Collapse of Rule of Law in TURKEY and Politically Motivated Extradition Requests for the Dissidents

Updated: Dec 4, 2019


By AST

www.silencedturkey.org



Turkey Blocks Defendants’ Right to Legal Counsel During Trials No Fair Trial in Turkey As Judiciary Remains in Shambles



Introduction

There are numerous reports illuminating the collapse of rule of law and the judicial independence in Turkey. The lack of fair trials, the denial of the right to defense, and political interference in ongoing cases summoned close-up scrutiny from international organizations to the nature of post-coup trials, causing debilitating damage to the credibility of trials at all. Despite for all the coverage of post-coup affairs in Turkey, how trials proceed on bogus and trumped-up charges, how the Turkish political and judicial authorities fabricated evidence to implicate certain figures and how arbitrariness contagiously pervaded all layers of judicial mechanism remain mostly under-sketched until the recent report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW). The HRW report aside, previous studies mostly left certain aspects regarding trials beyond full grasp of outsiders. For this reason, except experts and legal observers, the outside world remains uninformed about how things veered off the script and how the very word of law has become a dead letter following the purge and politically-tinged trials. This report, in addition to the HRW-like studies, seeks to fill the gap by offering a detailed analysis of the political efforts aimed at subverting the legal system and manipulating post-coup trials. Additionally, this study tries to provide a panoramic view of central contours of the political course of post-coup Turkey in an effort to illustrate the correspondence between the government’s not-so-subtle interference in legal processes and dynamics of advancing political interests of the ruling party.


To have a proper sense of what this report is about, a historical perspective is essential to capture how the Turkish government defied both national and international law. This requires revisiting recent course of political events that sealed the country’s tilt toward authoritarianism. In this regard, an adequate understanding of the political context would be a good start to untangle the link between political factors and judicial affairs.


Political Context

Turkey’s slow-motion drift into the grip of authoritarianism took place in much a longer time, a process that began before the failed 2016 coup. The government’s heavy-handed response to nationwide Gezi Park protests in 2013 and the first waves of purge after the corruption investigation in December 2013 paved the way for the emergence of an illiberal government. Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did his best in his capacity to blunt the sprawling graft scandal, which implicated his cabinet ministers and his family members. The prime minister responded with a swift purge of prosecutors and police officers overseeing the graft case. Many observers and experts pinpoint this year, 2013, as the major turning point for Turkey’s drift away from a liberal democracy, which it never gained in a full-fledged, ideal fashion in the republican history. It would be safe to say that the contours of autocratic turn began to appear with the purge in judiciary and police department in late 2013. What followed after was a steady descent into an autocratic system.


If the post-2013 era signaled the harbinger of Turkey’s break with the democratic norms, the post-coup period after the botched putsch in mid-2016 served as a testament to the full breakdown of the rule of law, judicial independence and corrosion of the integrity of Turkey’s bureaucratic institutions following the sweeping purge. The failed coup attempt was a watershed moment in Turkey’s modern history. The government immediately declared a state of emergency and ruled the country with decrees, which had the full force of law, for two years. Although the emergency regime officially ended last summer, the measures taken by the government during the emergency rule remain in place after authorities enacted a new set of laws that made decrees permanent.


The abortive coup provided President Erdogan and his party the much-needed pretext and unlimited latitude to embark on a massive purge to dismiss their real and perceived political opponents from public service. The profusion of numbers is mind-numbing. More than 150,000 public workers have been fired without due process.


A detailed report by Amnesty International in October last year meticulously documented how that process played out. Authorities did not feel any compunction over the lack of any legal basis or evidence of wrongdoing to justify dismissals.


“Their dismissals did not include specific evidence or details of their alleged wrongdoing. Instead, the decrees offered a generalized justification that they ‘…had links to, were part of, were connected to, or in communication with…’ proscribed groups,” the Amnesty report stated.


Administrative decisions, not court rulings, were definitive and determining elements in the course of dismissals, a minister admitted during the emergency rule. Former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag’s off-script remarks were an acknowledgment of the political nature of the purge process, which took place in line with political whims of the government rather than due legal process.


As the subject matter of this report, the collapse of judicial independence and lack of fair trials appear as the major source of lamentation and complaints from purge victims. More than 3,500 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed en masse. The majority of them wound up in jail after lengthy pretrial detention. What further blighted Turkey’s shredded judicial landscape was a systematic blow to defendants’ right to fair defense and legal counsel. A recent HRW report, which was published this April, lucidly elaborated on the crackdown on lawyers, among other things. The political persecution of the members of Turkey’s judiciary was (is) not restricted to mass imprisonment of judges and prosecutors. The Turkish authorities also went after lawyers and legal organizations, denying defendants, who had been arrested as part of the post-coup crackdown, not only the fair trial but also access to the most basic legal counsel and defense. It would be professional suicide for any lawyer to represent someone, who stand trial on the charge of affiliation with the Gulen Movement. As the HRW report dwells upon the legal perils and professional challenges of defending a Gulen-affiliated person, lawyers face the high risk of similar treatment and accusations by the authorities.


While the HRW’s scrupulous and well-documented study limits its focus to the ordeal of lawyers, this report aims to take a larger look from a broader perspective to situate the breakdown of Turkey’s judicial system in a historical and political context. To that aim, how the entire legal drama was deeply tainted and steered by political meddling and considerations in Turkey’s post-coup political landscape will be the major theme of this study. In this respect, apart from providing a mere analysis or a narrative record of the recent course of events in Turkey from an analytical angle, this report also contains some normative judgments and policy prescriptions for outside experts, especially in the legal profession, in the face of Turkey’s relentless legal diplomacy to haunt dissidents abroad.


It would be tempting for the host countries to treat Ankara’s extradition requests of some critics within the narrow scope of technical aspects of legal criteria. But it need not much prudence to see the political motivations of Ankara lurking behind the mere judicial moves. This report casts Turkey’s tireless efforts to capture the government’s opponents abroad in this light, offering a close-up look at some cases that expose political machinations inherent in some extradition requests. Therefore, this study warns foreign governments and courts against Ankara’s disregard of central tenets of its own national law and international law when it pursued certain critical figures living in different countries either in Europe or elsewhere.


The Nature of Political Regime in Turkey


The General Outline of the Debate


There is an emerging widespread consensus among scholars and journalists over the nature of the political regime in Turkey. One chief assumption rests at the center of countless diverse studies — Turkey is no longer a democracy and there is little space for free speech. Whether Turkey could be identified as a dictatorship still remains a matter of an ensuing academic controversy. The scholarly position oscillates between divergent viewpoints from “smart authoritarianism” to emerging fascism. The debate is not just about semantics or the epistemological dimension, it is about the essence and soul of the living system in Turkey.

“IN TURKEY under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the tweet has been turned into a crime, and a troubled democracy is being turned into a dictatorship. Gradually but inexorably, a nation that once aspired to be an exemplar of enlightened moderation is being transformed by Mr. Erdogan into a dreary totalitarian prison,” The Washington Post wrote in an editorial last year.


The Post editorial reached its conclusion after a long take on how Erdogan’s government rolled back democratic gains of the recent decades. Certainly, the Post is not alone in its assessment.


The Turkish president’s gradual power grab did not happen within one year. It rather took place stage by stage in a piecemeal fashion over the past several years. His political machinations chipped away at core elements of Turkey’s fragile democracy.

Not long before its descent into authoritarianism, Turkey aspired to be a model country for the rest of the region. A mixed combination of Islam and democracy, a rising economy with groundbreaking, novel E.U. reforms as part of the negotiations with Brussels for full membership were the hallmarks of Turkey’s inspiring success story.


“… Turkey is viewed as having played the “most constructive” role in the past year’s events and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emerged as the most admired leader by far in the region, according to the 2011 edition of the annual “Arab Public Opinion Survey” conducted by Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution,” Jim Lobe wrote for Institute for Policy Studies in 2011.


“Turkey is the biggest winner of the Arab Spring,” wrote Telhami who led the survey in 2011 to measure the public reaction and expectations across the region swept by a wave of demonstrations toppling long-running autocrats. The scholar noted further:

“In the five countries polled, Turkey is seen to have played the “most constructive” role in the Arab events. Its prime minister, Recep Erdoğan, is the most admired among world leaders, and those who envision a new president for Egypt want the new president to look most like Erdoğan. Egyptians want their country to look more like Turkey than any of the other Muslim, Arab and other choices provided.”


During the first decade of its spell in power, the Islamist-rooted AKP’s displayed commitment to democracy and its reform-driven agenda to acquire E.U. membership for Turkey upended the long-held belief that political Islam and democracy would not co-exist peacefully in a properly functioning fashion. Until an illiberal and undemocratic turn in the early 2010s, President Erdogan’s rule proved otherwise, boosting confidence in the belief that conservative and Islamist-oriented parties would reconcile their worldview with the demands and necessities of democratic politics.


But as scholars increasingly came to believe that the Arab Spring was a lost opportunity for the Erdogan administration’s loyalty to democracy. Lured by the emerging geopolitical opportunities during the Arab Spring in the Middle East, Turkey sought to project its power across the region. Ankara employed elements of hard power at the expense of its hard-won soft power, chipping away at the prestige it earned after arduous efforts, and making Turkey susceptible and open to the spillover of the regional conflicts. The Syrian civil war and Turkey’s policies have been the most known contours of this embroilment and over-stretch of Ankara’s diplomatic as well as military clout, mostly to the detriment of the country’s interests.


While the Syrian conflict dragged Turkey into uncharted territory with profound diplomatic and military ramifications for Ankara’s regional foreign and security policies, the Turkish domestic politics would not escape unscathed and unaffected from the conflict. The refugee flow, the challenging incorporation of more than 3,5 million Syrians into Turkey’s social fabric, and the emergence of security threats after open border policy created additional pitfalls for the government in Ankara. The social and economic cost of accommodating Syrians also became a politically divisive issue.


BContours of Authoritarianism

These course of events in the internal and external realm appears to have inexorably anchored Turkey in an illiberal political setting. The scale and pace of Turkey’s drift into the grip of full-blown authoritarianism after the failed coup in 2016 is completely a different story. The post-2016 Turkey resembles a different country as it underwent a seismic change in all facets and layers of the body politic.


After praising Turkey’s democratic reforms during the 2000s, Peter S. Goodman, London-based European economics correspondent for The New York Times, detected a similar collapse over the course of past years. He wrote for The Times last year:

“But that was before Mr. Erdogan began amassing supreme powers, and before his brutal crackdown on dissent following an attempted coup two years ago. It was before Turkey descended into a financial crisis delivered in no small measure by his authoritarian proclivities and unorthodox stewardship of the economy. Whatever was left of the notion that Mr. Erdogan was a liberalizing force has been wholly extinguished.”


“For the West,” he added, “Mr. Erdogan has devolved from a righteous hope — would-be proof that Islam and democracy can peacefully coexist — into another autocrat whose populism, bombast and contempt for the ledger books have yielded calamity.”

The failed coup ushered in a new era and prompted a new form of commentary that increasingly began to use the concept of dictatorship and dictator when they analyzed the transformation of both the political landscape and President Erdogan himself.

David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, likened Erdogan to Stalin. “Erdogan’s “inner Stalin” is unleashed,” he wrote five days after the coup.


Turkey’s authorities launched a massive purge within the public sector and security bureaucracy, with little regard for the purge’s calamitous and pernicious implications for the integrity and functional health of the institutions. The Columbia scholar, who also served at the State Department in the past administrations of Clinton, Bush and Obama, argued that Erdogan was turning Turkey into a giant Gulag.


The failed coup against Erdogan, Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman wrote, “turned out be a godsend, because it allowed him to end the separation of powers.”

Feldman opined that “the only institutions capable of counterbalancing Erdogan were the military and the courts.”


“The failed coup gave Erdogan the opening to purge the judiciary and military of opponents and skeptics, indeed anyone who wasn’t a reliable loyalist. That left no one to balance Erdogan — and no reason for him to stick with democratic rule,” he wrote in a column in May 2017.


The post-coup purge and crackdown have left no doubt about the political trajectory of the government. The declaration of emergency rule, which was extended seven more times after expiration of its three-month period, allowed the Turkish government to bypass and circumvent constitutional safeguards protecting individual rights and defendants’ rights to a fair trial, legal counsel and etc. The story of the post-coup clampdown was well documented by countless reports by international organizations, therefore there would only be a passing mention here.


As scholars are divided over how to identify the character of the regime in Ankara, there is no doubt about its authoritarian nature.


“Erdoğan’s relentless political chicanery offers a roadmap to today’s populist dictators on how to engineer apparently democratic triumphs on their way to disabling democracy,” the Forbes columnist Melik Kaylan wrote in an article for Politico after a controversial referendum in April 2017. The vote was marred by widespread allegations of voter fraud after the Supreme Election Council (YSK), under political pressure, decided to accept more than 1.5 million unstamped ballot papers at last minute. The ruling swayed the vote in favor of ‘Yes’ camp of President Erdogan whose lifelong push for an executive presidential system materialized with the controversial win the constitutional referendum.


He summarized the authoritarian playbook of the Turkish strongman as follows:

“Erdoğan deliberately provoked chaos then offered himself up as a solution. He allowed ISIS to operate openly in Turkey; he ignited a civil war against the Kurdish population to punish them for voting against him in a crucial national election; he kept the Syrian border porous so the instability there would migrate into Turkey. He persecuted the military until they revolted, accusing outside forces of fomenting the trouble, most recently the Gülenists. With rolling Robespierre-like prosecutions, he warned half the country that opposing him will wreck their lives. He destroyed the economy but subsidized his supporters.”

His analysis reveals the government’s consistent attempts to hollow out Turkey’s once-functioning institutions in a brazen manner. Whatever has the government done since the Gezi protests served to consolidate Erdogan’s position by making the entire political system dependent on one personality with little regard for the institutional degeneration engendered by the whole course of political events.


“The only way Erdoğan has achieved any political success is by using the body politic against itself,” Kaylan wrote. “In essence,” the columnist argued, the Turkish president “has delegitimized governance in order to present himself as the only way to restore it.”

The post-referendum commentary was almost united in their assessment of what the April vote in 2017 meant for the future of Turkey’s political system. The constitutional amendment bestowed enormous powers at the president’s office, undoing the central tenets of the almost century-old parliamentary system of the Republic.


Writing a day after the referendum, Roy Gutman from The Daily Beast contended that “the result will be a system under which there’s no prime minister, where the parliament will be weakened to the point of being a rubber stamp, and the judiciary will become still more subservient than it is already.”


He went on to say: “The path to one-man rule—opponents talk of a “dictatorship”—is the story of a politician with a gut instinct for gaining power who’s seized on every political setback that’s come his way in the past two years and turned it into an opportunity to advance his ambitions.”


Following the presidential election in 2018, the president assumed vast powers normally accrued to a new breed of global strongmen around the world.


A New York Times article summarized the changes introduced as follows:

“The prime minister’s office has been abolished; The military has been brought under firmer civilian control; The president will draft the budget and choose judges and many top officials; The president can dismiss Parliament and call new elections at will; The president appoints the head of the National Intelligence Agency, the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Central Bank, as well as ambassadors, governors and university rectors, among other top bureaucrats; Virtually none of the president’s appointments require a confirmation process.”

One year since the election has confirmed the existence of the one-man rule in Turkey. President Erdogan’s style of governance, however, backfired on March 31 local elections. He lost major cities, including Ankara and Istanbul, as of this report’s publication.


But in between, the president began to dismantle some core institutions of the Republic, while establishing a direct rule over the entire apparatus of the executive branch. Once unthinkable and inconceivable, outside observers and experts no longer shy away from depicting Erdogan’s Turkey as an emerging dictatorship. However contested the academic label it may be, the country moves between authoritarianism and dictatorship with more and more articles calling the Turkish leader as a “dictator.”


In this context and against this backdrop, Turkey’s legal and diplomatic actions on a global scale must be understood and reviewed. Needless to say, the political nature of the regime has direct implications for the ongoing trials in Turkey. Trials against actual coup plotters aside, the majority of the trials against opponents in the post-coup era are politically motivated. Even the coup plotters lack fair trial amid tremendous political pressure and public mobbing.


The Case Against Extradition


There is a preponderance of factual data and evidence that strongly prove the central charge against the Turkish government that the post-coup trials are not fair and politically motivated in form and essence. After providing a historical and political context about the evolution of an increasingly authoritarian regime in Turkey, this part of the report will take the issue of post-coup trials and analyze them from the angle of universally accepted legal norms and criteria. It also will try to build up a compelling case to show why foreign courts and judges should think twice before ruling in favor Ankara’s extradition requests for wanted dissidents.

To begin with, a growing body of pieces appeared on the international media and reports by respected rights organizations have coalesced around a shared conviction about the nature of the post-coup trials: they are not fair. They are driven by political motivations of the government and lack the basic parameters of due process.


The post-coup trials are political in nature;There is no judicial independence;Turkey’s authorities show contempt for the ECHR rulings;Mass prosecution of LawyersTurkey’s abuse of Interpol System;British Court Rejects Ankara’s Extradition RequestPerils of Extradition

The second part of the study will elaborate on each theme outlined above in its quest to build up a case against extradition.


Post-Coup Trials Are Politically Motivated


Foreign judges and courts must consider the fact that the major consensus among human rights organizations and Turkey observers is that the majority of the trials appear to be politically motivated. There are a number of cases that indisputably show how Turkey’s authorities simply elbowed aside the central tenets of rule of law and fair trial when they imprisoned rights activists, journalists, politicians and all types of dissidents.


“The Ministry of Justice also reported that, between July 2016 and July 2018, “investigations have been opened into 612,347 persons alleged to be founders, executives, or members of armed organizations.” A majority of these were reportedly detained for alleged ties to the Gulen movement or the PKK, often with little due process or access to the evidence underlying the accusations against them,” the U.S. State Department noted in its report about human rights in Turkey.


The Case of Amnesty International Activists: On July 5, 2017, the Turkish police detained 10 members of Amnesty International over terrorism charges and landed them in pretrial detention. The police raid took place when the activists were attending a cyber-security workshop on an island in the Marmara Sea.  Taner Kilic, the chairman of Amnesty’s Turkey branch, had already been detained in Izmir on similar charges, over membership to a terrorist organization.


The arrest rattled the entire world and was regarded as an assault on human rights itself. The London-based Amnesty International dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

“The use of criminal proceedings against human-rights defenders… is unfortunately an increasingly frequent phenomenon” in Turkey, said Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, according to Economist.


The Amnesty launched a worldwide campaign to secure the release of Kilic and Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch, and others. While other members were released after months of detention, Kilic remained in prison until August 2018. This episode is only one element of a larger picture that points to the fact that different segments of society and public workers, including diplomats, journalists, judges, prosecutors, teachers, police chiefs and generals faced similar criminal legal proceedings although the majority of them had no record of any wrongdoing and official misconduct.


The deployment of terrorist label and invocation of counter-terrorism laws against members of public service and journalists indeed reveal the political approach deeply rooted in how the government perceives the post-coup trials. The only thing that unites the so many diverse people with different social affiliation and political conviction is that they are opponents or discontents of the Erdogan government. If a public worker is deemed a non-loyalist, this factor is seen enough to categorize him as a terrorist, as tens of thousands of cases before and after the coup have so far confirmed.


The Case of Politician Selahattin Demirtas: The trial of Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-chair of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP), is another case in point. Prosecutors accuse him of leading the political branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and involving in terrorist propaganda.


Demirtas who was detained in late October 2016, appeared at the court on Feb. 14, 2018, for the first time. The HDP politician noted that “terrorism charges against him were politically motivated and he did not think he would get a fair trial.”

In his defense at the court, Demirtas lamented the obstacles he faced during the lengthy pretrial detention.


“The President is calling me a terrorist every day, and openly instructing the courts and the parliament against us. It wasn’t the judiciary who brought me here, but the President himself,” Reuters quoted him as saying.


The treatment of politicians, journalists, members of the judiciary and other public sector departments in the same way along with actual criminals and terrorists taint the credibility and integrity of trials, cast serious doubts over the claims of the Turkish authorities.

According to the government, anyone criticizing the president faces terrorism charges. This is true for NBA star Enes Kanter, for former national soccer star Hakan Sukur, who lives in the U.S. in self-exile, for Ahmet Altan, a novelist and journalist serving life in prison in Istanbul, for Asli Erdogan, who briefly stayed in jail and now lives in Germany in self-imposed exile. Former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar, lawmakers, diplomats and countless exiled journalists and writers face the noxious charge of terrorist for their criticism of the government and the president.


The Case of NASA Scientist Serkan Golge: The conviction of NASA scientist Serkan Golge on terrorism charge encapsulates the gist of the matter about the political nature of trials. Golge, after one and a half year of pretrial detention, was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison over membership to a terrorist organization. The U.S. authorities long tried to secure his release, but to no avail. After the prison sentence, “a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State said the United States is “deeply concerned” by Golge’s conviction, which came “without credible evidence.”


Golge was on a vacation along with his family in the southern province of Hatay when the coup attempt took place. The police arrested him over the coup-related and terrorism charges after a tip from a distant relative. The observers, the U.S. government and legal experts dismissed the accusations as groundless. The scientist remained in solitary confinement one and a half year before the announcement of the prison sentence.


The War Against Academia: The members of Turkey’s academia have also found themselves in the crosshairs of the authorities. Thousands of academics were either suspended or dismissed over alleged terrorism ties or Gulen affiliation. More than 1,000 academics faced probes and some of them were convicted over signing a peace petition calling for the cessation of the army operations in urban areas in southeastern Turkey in early 2016.


In a riveting report, the HRW stated that the Turkish government is “investigating and prosecuting academics on trumped-up terrorism charges.”

“The authorities,” the report noted, “are interfering with student protests on campus, and prosecuting student activists. And officials are interfering with academic research on controversial topics.”


It added: “Together these actions are creating a climate of fear and self-censorship on campus, and breaching Turkey’s obligations under human rights law to respect and protect academic freedom and freedom of expression.”

The universities have also faced accusations of collaborating with the government to muzzle critical academics.


The numbers reveal the true scope of the post-coup clampdown. As of September 2017, “a total of 5,717 academics in 117 universities have been sacked from their jobs in Turkey, according to Bianet.org; 15 universities have been shut down altogether; and, according to the Ministry of Justice, 69,301 students have been incarcerated as of the end of 2016, which accounts for one-third of the total number of prisoners in the whole country.”

The war on academy not only occurred through mass dismissals but also took the form of legal proceedings.


B)There Is No Judicial Independence in Turkey

According to international organizations, media and experts, there is no longer judicial independence in Turkey, something that has become a political reality after years of fraying at the heart of judicial affairs. The rot of the judiciary also took place in a larger time frame, but devolved into a full-blown fracturing in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016. The mass imprisonment of more than 3,500 judges and prosecutors dealt a heavy blow to Turkey’s judiciary, installing a fear regime that frightened whatever left of the independent-minded and norm-respecting judges and prosecutors.


According to the World Index that measures judicial independence, Turkey ranked at 111th place out of 140 countries.  The standing reveals where Turkey belongs to. Certainly, not to the league of advanced democracies.


Apart from this, there are countless reports by other organizations cling to a similar conviction about the lack of judicial independence in Turkey.


The Council of Europe’s 49-member Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) published a number of reports in a bid to evaluate the state of the judiciary in Turkey. While its reports in 2018 chiefly focused on the prevalence of corruption in Turkey, it also analyzed how the recent legislative measures “putting the independence of the judiciary from the executive and political powers at stake.”


A report by GRECO, which solely focused on the independence of courts, notes: “the fact that the newly-established Council of Judges and Prosecutors is appointed by the President of the Republic and Parliament, and none of its members are elected by the judiciary itself, runs counter to the fundamental principle of an independent judiciary.”

It further adds that:

“In summary, GRECO notes that only 2 out of 22 of its recommendations on these issues have been implemented satisfactorily by Turkey, leading GRECO to describe the current level of compliance as “globally unsatisfactory”.”


The lack of judicial independence particularly matters when it comes to extradition requests by Ankara. Other countries and courts must keep in mind the fact that if a certain person is sent back to Turkey, the prospect of standing a fair trial remains scantily dim.


The Case of Murat Arslan

Last year, a joint letter by four leading judicial organizations in Europe were firm in their conviction about this subject.


“On the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2018, the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey strongly emphasizes that basic human rights standards are neglected and violated in Turkey, inter alia through the abolishment of an independent judiciary and in so far arbitrary detention of thousands of Turkish judges,” a letter by the four organizations said.

Presidents of Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ), European Association of Judges (EAJ), Judges for Judges and Magistrats Européens pour la Democratie et les Libertés (MEDEL) expressed their concern over the ongoing trials against judiciary members. As an example of the collapse of judicial independence, the case of Murat Arslan, a judge and president of the Turkish Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), was cited in the letter. Arslan was imprisoned in October 2016 and remains in prison ever since.

Arslan’s case struck a particular chord around the world.


“The conviction of Judge Arslan constitutes a severe and gross attack on the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, and in a democratic state under the rule of law an independent and impartial judiciary is a fundamental guarantee for society as a whole,” Diego Garcia-Sayán, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the independence of judges and lawyers, said on Feb. 6 this year.


He said: “I remain gravely concerned at the adverse effects that the measures implemented by the Government of Turkey have had, and continue to have, on the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms of targeted individuals as well as on the independence of the judiciary and the free exercise of the legal profession.”

Arslan was sentenced to 10