Venice Commission urges Turkish Constitutional Court to annul judiciary bill

ANKARA – Hurriyet – 6.3.2014 – The Venice Commission has indirectly requested the annulment of a controversial bill on the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), saying it believes that Turkey’s Constitutional Court will fulfill its role of protecting the Constitution and its basic values.

“The independence of the judiciary is a fundamental value of the Turkish Constitution. If the law is brought to the Constitutional Court, the Venice Commission believes that the Court will play its role of guarantor of the Turkish Constitution and its basic values,” Daniel Höltgen, the Venice Commission’s spokesperson said in a written statement in response to the Hürriyet Daily News’ question on the HSYK law.

The law was taken to the Constitutional Court by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on March 3 with a demand for its annulment and stay of execution. The Court is currently examining the law’s compatibility with the Turkish Constitution.The government had previously reformed the HSYK in 2010 with the consultation of the Venice Commission, which is an advisory board of the Council of Europe on constitutional law. The latest reorganization of the key judicial body, which appoints thousands judges and prosecutors and deals with important judicial issues, comes little over three years after that reform, and has been seen as an attempt to reverse achievements in ensuring independent and impartial justice.In contrast to 2010, the government this time did not seek any consultation on the bill from the Venice Commission, according to Höltgen.

Voicing concerns

The Venice Commission has so far declined to make a detailed comment on the HSYK law as it has not yet seen the precise text of amendments, but it has expressed its concern. “[The Commission] is conscious that there are amendments that strengthen the role of the minister of justice within the High Council. The purpose of the existence of a judicial council is to protect the independence of the judiciary with respect to the executive,” he said.  The adopted HSYK law is seen as one of the most important indications of the government’s inclination to increase its control over the judiciary at the expense of violating two key democratic principles: The rule of law and the separation of powers. The European Commission has warned Turkey that the law is in violation of the EU acquis and called on the government to work with either the European Commission or the Venice Commission before concluding the legislative process. President Abdullah Gül has said that he found at least 15 articles in violation of the Turkish Constitution. However he adopted the law, simply expressing his hope that the remaining articles would be examined by the court. –