Turkey's great judicial reform

Published 22.11.2019 19:41
Updated 23.11.2019 00:11

The Republic of Turkey was founded on thousands of years of state tradition, a legendary empire, a formidable military and a strong justice system. Turkish customs have developed to parallel the Turks' rich history and have played a huge role in the creation of the state's structure.

Islam, on the other hand, has gone on to greatly influence empires and modern states alike after it emerged, due to its emphasis on justice and compassion, a remarkable feat in the history of mankind.

Like two converging rivers flowing toward the sea, the convergence of Turks and Islamic culture in the region of Transoxiana, one of the most important centers of civilization in the world, allowed the formation of a brand new state tradition in the spirit of Islam.

During the Abbasid period, Turks, who were influential in the army camps and the state, raised the brightest Islamic scholars and jurists in the fertile cosmopolitan climate of Transoxiana.

In the second Hijri century, Bukhara, Samarkand and Baghdad became the homeland of science, religious knowledge and philosophy. The palaces of the Abbasid caliphs were the contemporary universities of the age where all kinds of scientific knowledge were taught and scientific debates were held.

The Seljuk state, the most unique state of the Islamic world, established a tradition that extends even today thanks to Nizam al-Mulk's effect in terms of state management and order, and the influence of Islamic sciences taught in Nizamiye madrasahs, where philosophers like Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali were educated.

Started from a small tent state, the Ottoman Empire was one of the largest of its kind in the world, rivaled only by the Roman Empire, and included a legal system that ensured the safety of large territories home to Muslims, Christians and Jews. These three religions lived peacefully under the leadership of Sultan Suleiman, also known as Suleiman the Magnificent. Serving as ruler during the empire's most powerful period, Suleiman was known as Kanuni (lawmaker) for his knack with establishing fair laws and order.

As the power of the empire declined, the lack of essential laws in the field of Islamic jurisprudence led to the slow failure of the Ottoman legal system. The work of "Mecelle" (the civil code of the Ottoman Empire) conducted by Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, a famous lawyer and social scientist statesman in the last century of the Ottoman Empire, included new guidelines for the new society. This work was limited and during the process, the practices of the modern Western legal system were introduced as the basis of the young republic.

Islamic law was completely abandoned, and the Western legal system was adopted after the establishment of the republic.

The legal system was implemented as a firewall for the construction of the new republic in the early years as in all ideological states but it was still in some ways influenced by Ottoman tradition.

The educational institution Istanbul Darülfünun (House of Science) University, which would later become Istanbul University, educated important lawyers who greatly influenced the construction of the modern legal system in the new republic.

The democratic environment in the country, which was interrupted by coups from time to time, also weakened the state legal system. Adnan Menderes, the late prime minister, while making his defense in his trial on the 1960 revolution, said, "The will that puts you here wants you to be executed." This led to a disaster in terms of our history of law.

Turkey has experienced legal reforms and improvements in every period but as in all democratic states, there are still masses of people complaining about the legal system in Turkey as well. At one point, the ultra-statist legal system was used ideologically as a means to threaten the people to protect the state. Reforms were made successively in the country, which saw an increase in democracy and improvement in the legal system under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

However, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) infiltrated the state and legal mechanisms. Later, 4,000 prosecutors and members of FETÖ were dismissed from their positions on charges of being members of a terrorist group and for supporting the July 15 coup attempt.

Around the time of the coup attempt, the justice reform package, which was prepared by Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and shared with the public by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was announced. The reforms are now expected to be enacted and implemented over three years. I will detail the extent of the package and what it entails in my next article.

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