Parliament passes new judicial reform package

Published 17.10.2019 00:00
Updated 20.12.2019 01:07

Parliament has passed the first package in a set of landmark judicial reforms, one of Turkey's signature legislative initiatives this year.

The reform package, passed by a show of hands yesterday, contains a host of changes, including laws covering freedom of expression, passports and protecting children.

What senior lawmakers are calling "trust ensuring, accessible justice," the judicial reforms look to contribute to the country's judicial system by raising standards regarding individual rights, liberties and democracy.

The reforms are designed to "strengthen trust in the judiciary [and] have an important place in our efforts to take our country to a brighter future," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a statement in September.

Under the reforms, expressions of thought that do not "cross the limits of reporting" and that are "for the purpose of criticism" will not constitute a crime.

Also under these reforms, the pre-sentencing detention period for crimes not due to face a heavy penalty court will not surpass six months, and for more serious offenses, the period will be a maximum of one year. In addition, lawyers who have been registered with the bar association for 15 years will be eligible for special green passports that facilitate getting visas and eliminate visa requirements for some countries.

The package lays out procedures for people who were dismissed from government service under decree but were later acquitted to be issued passports after a check by the Interior Ministry.

The reforms also make investigations possible for the sexual abuse of children, in which the testimony of children will be taken by qualified experts who work in centers caring for abused children.

"The new judicial reform document reflects the voice of the 82-million-strong Turkish nation," Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül told journalists during a press conference in Ankara last month.

Indicating that each individual has the right to a fair trial, Gül noted the necessity of maintaining the trust of the people and that courts function on the basis of independence, objectivity and justice.

On the other hand, he also said that the Turkish judicial system has undergone unique tests that no other country with a rule of law has ever witnessed and that the country has not given up on its fight for justice and law against all covert networks, including the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).

Gül said that the balance between security and freedom needs to be protected and he believes "the fight against terrorism is in fact a fight for human rights."

Turkey has been in a constant struggle with FETÖ, the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian affiliate, the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), and Daesh simultaneously for many years now.

To deal with this, on May 30, President Erdoğan announced a new judicial reform to strengthen the independent, objective, accountable and transparent features of the judiciary.

The judicial reform strategy consists of two basic perspectives, nine targets, 63 objectives and 256 activities.

The nine targets are: Protection and improvement of rights and freedoms; improvements of judicial independence, objectivity and transparency; improving both the quality and quantity of human resources; increasing performance and productivity; enabling the right of defense to be used effectively; making justice more approachable; increasing the effectiveness of the penalty justice system; simplifying civil justice and administrative procedure and lastly, popularizing alternative mediation methods.

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