Parliament's Judicial Commission approved a legislative proposal on the first package of the Judicial Reform Strategy Document yesterday. The proposal was submitted last week by ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies. AK Party Group Deputy Chairman Mehmet Muş had confirmed that they submitted the 39-item legislative proposal. "Before the proposal, we visited the opposition parties, listened to them and received their feedback. We believe that we have prepared a regulation that would meet the needs of our society," he said. Using the slogan "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. Muş said crimes against freedom of expression, which were identified in the court of appeal, could be applied to the Supreme Court. Muş said the regulation aims to ensure the unity of case law.
Recalling previous practices that blocked or limited access to some websites, Muş said the new regulations would not target entire websites but restrict certain content. "Therefore, the website can remain open, but only the elements subject to crimes or complaints will be blocked. We will prevent the entire website from being blocked," he said.
Commenting on the reactions of opposition parties, Muş said there was no serious criticism of the content of the proposal. "It is a positive package for Turkey's legal system. There were certain critics and offers. We made some regulations about them," he added. The package also includes other regulations that seek to enhance individual liberties. Accordingly, expressions aiming to inform or criticize will not constitute a crime.
The proposal will allow lawyers registered to the bar and who have at least 15 years of seniority to have private stamped passports.
The limitation of long-time imprisonment without a sentence and the return of passports to those who were dismissed from duties by presidential decrees are also among the regulations.
Metin Feyzioğlu, the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations and one of the main figures who worked on the process, stated that the package as a whole has the potential to bring Turkey's legal system at a level that is even higher than the Copenhagen criteria. "If the new legal reform package can be applied properly, if parts of the system that are lacking can be covered [through these reforms, as desired], the Copenhagen criteria would be left behind," said Feyzioğlu, pointing at the potential power of the reforms that are expected to have a striking influence over the existing legal system of the country.
According to Feyzioğlu, there are a few points to be considered when approaching Turkey's legal system and problems within. The first regards the legal system as a whole, especially when it comes to its trustworthiness. The second concerns the low levels education and inexperience that are becoming common in the legal circles, from judges to lawyers. Third and last, on the other hand, as Feyzioğlu said, is the lack of supervision over legal matters.
In Feyzioğlu's opinion, to enhance the trustworthiness of the system and reach a desired point where the independence of the judiciary is ensured regardless of who the judge is, a constitutional change is needed, which is not part of this reform package. However, when it comes to the second and third points, the reform package has lots to offer, to the point that it can eliminate all problems if applied properly.
On May 30, President Recep Tayyip 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 mediating methods.
Prepared by the Justice Ministry for the period of 2019-2023, the reform strategy envisions a "trust ensuring, approachable justice system."