Turkey’s top judge emphasizes judiciary's role in upholding rights and freedoms

Turkey’s top judge emphasizes judiciary's role in upholding rights and freedoms
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Constitutional Court head Zuhtu Arslan stressed the necessity of an independent and impartial judiciary in preserving a law-abiding state and safeguarding freedoms during a panel in Turkey’s capital Ankara

Turkey’s Constitutional Court head Zühtü Arslan highlighted the indispensable role of an independent and impartial judiciary in sustaining a state grounded on law and freedoms, during a significant address on the principles of democratic rule of law.

Speaking at a panel in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Tuesday, Arslan underscored that the judiciary must operate autonomously, safeguarded from the influence of other state powers. He emphasized that any control exerted over the judiciary by other governmental branches would signify the end of rights and freedoms.

During his speech titled "Judicial Independence as a Hallmark of a Democratic Rule of Law State", Arslan remarked that as highlighted in Turkish Constitutional Court rulings, judicial independence is not only the cornerstone of a fair trial right but also the foremost and most effective guarantee of all fundamental rights and freedoms.

"By definition, a state is an organization of society founded on legal principles. The legitimacy of the state as a monopoly of force is contingent on law. The application of law in a manner that establishes justice and protects rights and freedoms is dependent on the existence of an independent judiciary. Furthermore, judicial independence is not just a requisite of a rule-of-law state, but also a mandatory consequence of the separation of powers principle. This separation mandates that the judiciary remains unaffected by legislative and executive interventions," Aslan said.

He also highlighted the dual responsibilities outlined in the article, directing towards both courts and judges, and external actors in the judiciary. Firstly, judicial independence facilitates unbiased judgments by judges, allowing them to decide according to their conscientious beliefs without succumbing to any influence. As iterated by the Constitutional Court, independence implies the judges’ ability to decide freely, devoid of any external influences, fostering the objective of dispensing justice without succumbing to any direct or indirect influences, pressures, directions, or suspicions.

Stressing the boundaries of influence on judges, he asserted, "No body, position, authority, or individual can issue orders or instructions, or even give suggestions or hints, to courts and judges in the exercise of judicial power. Our constitution specifically prohibits the legislative organ from this interference. Questions cannot be raised in the parliament about an ongoing case concerning the utilization of judicial power, nor discussions held or any statements made."

He emphasized that it is not sufficient for courts and judges to be independent and impartial, but it must also be known that they are so. Hence, the rule-of-law state necessitates avoidance of actions that might tarnish the appearance of judicial independence and impartiality.