Biggest failing of the Republic of Turkey

Sahin Alpay

by Şahin Alpay – The measures taken by the government of Turkey, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to not only cover up the greatest corruption probe in the history of the republic, which went public on Dec. 17, 2013, but to fully put an end to the separation of powers and to subjugate the judiciary, the media and civil society are building day by day.

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the Court of Cassation and the Council of State have, one after the other, become tools of the government.

Members of the judiciary who would not take orders from the government have been put behind bars. Judges who decided to release the unlawfully detained Hidayet Karaca, general manager of the STV broadcasting group, and 62 policemen were immediately arrested. Arrest warrants were issued for the four prosecutors and one military commander who stopped and searched trucks carrying arms and ammunition, allegedly to radical Islamist groups in Syria. Four prosecutors and one judge who took part in the corruption probe were dismissed by the HSYK and they will be put on trial, allegedly for misusing their power. Erdoğan, overseeing the end to the independence of the judiciary, seems to issue instructions to the judiciary by saying, “Arrests of prosecutors and judges may continue…”

In a gesture of deference to the government, the chief judge of the Council of State invited only representatives of the state news agency and public broadcasting corporation to the celebration of its 147th anniversary, barring the rest of the media. In her speech she defined the separation of powers as “cooperation and accord” between powers, as if the judiciary’s mandate were not to check the executive’s misuse of power.

It seems that the Constitutional Court, with its new chief justice and new members appointed by Erdoğan, may soon allow criminal courts created by the Erdoğan government to conduct witch hunts against oppositional groups no matter if the entire group of respected constitutional lawyers deems such courts as being in grave violation of the rule of law.

Professor Ergun Ozbudun, Turkey’s most distinguished constitutional lawyer and a member of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe (CoE), summed up the situation Turkey finds itself in with the following statement: “Every day, incomprehensible things are taking place. The rule of law has expired. This is all I have to say. When the rule of law no longer applies, it is comical to talk about measures violating this or that article of the law.”

Only two years ago, Erdogan declared that his government had done away with the military’s Red Book, the top secret document adopted by the National Security Council (MGK). Today he embraces that same Red Book in order to manipulate its use in the witch hunt conducted to cleanse the public service of unwanted personnel. He declared recently that “the judiciary’s approach will have to change since this is an issue related to national security.”

His government seems intent on extending the witch hunt, conducted under the bogus concept of the “parallel structure,” by which he means the Hizmet movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, into the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The defense minister, who usually keeps silent on military issues, declared that there were over a thousand notifications about elements affiliated with the “parallel structure” in the military.

Recent events concerning the rule of law taking place in Turkey prompt me to bitterly conclude that perhaps the gravest failing of the Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923, is the failure to raise elites committed to human rights, universal values and the rule of law.

Those who embrace these ideals are either confined to highly limited numbers or dare not speak out. The majority chooses loyalty to those in power or to their own purely material interests. This was the case when the regime was dominated by the Kemalist civilian and military bureaucracy throughout the 20th century. It is still the case, as the reins of power are now in the hands of a neo-Islamist elected government intent on destroying the rule of law.

Published on Sunday’s Zaman