Since the last Freedom Observer, allegations of corruption within Turkey's judiciary have come to the forefront of the country's political agenda. Roughly ten days ago, İsmail Uçar, Chief Prosecutor of the Istanbul-Anadolu Courthouse, submitted a report to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors, raising concerns about bribery and criminal activities within the judicial system. The report contains exceptionally serious allegations that have eroded trust in the judiciary.
Chief Public Prosecutor Uçar has expressed concerns about certain members of the judiciary engaging in what he describes as "unlawful practices." These individuals are alleged to be involved in bribery, facilitating illicit transactions, manipulating access to specific news articles for financial gain, and carrying out irregular evictions. Uçar has also drawn attention to the emergence of criminal networks within the judiciary.
While the Minister of Justice has initiated an investigation to uncover and penalize those involved in bribery and corruption, regrettably, there are doubts about the investigation's ability to fully uncover all the perpetrators and aspects of the case. This problem appears to have a structural source, closely tied to the politics of the AKP government. In fact, the aforementioned report suggests a pressing need to significantly increase the number of judges and prosecutors. This need arose following the extensive purges within the judiciary after the 2016 coup attempt, which resulted in a decline in the quality of judicial personnel.
If the findings in the Chief Prosecutor's Report accurately reflect the truth, the practice of partisan staffing within the judiciary, initiated in the summer of 2016 under the pretext of purging 'FETÖ members,' seems to have enabled certain groups, who draw their influence from their proximity to political power rather than their professional competence, to take actions that bypass or deviate from standard legal procedures over time. In essence, it appears that we are dealing with a systemic issue stemming from the events of the July 15-20 Process, rather than an isolated problem caused by a few judicial personnel 'going astray.' This is why we have reservations about the case ever being fully elucidated.
Another important development for the current nature and future of the regime in Turkey is that the "infringement procedure" initiated against Turkey for not releasing businessman Osman Kavala, who was charged with "attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey" and sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment despite the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, has finally yielded a result. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which met in Strasbourg on October 12, decided to suspend the voting rights of the Turkish delegation if Osman Kavala is not released by January 2024. According to the resolution, if Kavala is not released, Council of Europe member states will also be able to impose sanctions on all officials, including judges and prosecutors, who played a role in sending Kavala to prison.
The negative impact of PACE's decision, which has dealt a significant blow to Turkey's reputation in the Western world, will not be limited to Turkey's foreign policy and diplomatic relations. It will also have unintended economic consequences and hinder citizens' interactions with European countries and institutions on various occasions such as business, culture, and tourism.
In the meantime, below you will find a comprehensive assessment of the Constitutional Court's decision to no longer review individual applications alleging violations of the right to a "trial within a reasonable time," and a summary of the Freedom House Report, which indicates that internet freedom in Turkey regresses each year.
See you in the next Freedom Observer.