The Justice Ministry announced Friday a schedule for the execution of Turkey's new Human Rights Action Plan – a series of reforms in its legal system that are aimed at enhancing democracy in the country while promoting human rights and liberties.
According to the document published on the ministry’s website, the plan, which is based on the vision of "Free Individuals, Strong Society: More Democratic Turkey," will be fully implemented within two years. Around the 11 main principles that constitute the backbone of the plan, a total of nine aims, 50 goals and 393 activities have been set. Short (one to three months), medium (six months to one year) and long (two years) terms have been determined for every action in the plan.
The plan originates from the state’s "obligation to protect, in all of its affairs and acts and with all of the state institutions and organizations, the physical and moral integrity and the honor and dignity of individuals."
The plan focuses on the topics of freedom, the right to security, the right to a fair trial and freedom of speech, as well as the rights of women and the disabled. The enhancement of these rights and liberties has seen setbacks in bureaucracy which have prevented them from being implemented properly. The plan has been prepared in accordance with the observations and reports from the international mechanisms that monitor human rights in cooperation with several human rights groups.
Some of the other principles of the plan are human dignity as the essence of all rights under the active protection of the law; the equal, impartial and honest provision of public services to everyone; that the rule of law shall be fortified in all areas as a safeguard for rights and freedoms, and no one may be deprived of liberty due to criticism or expression of thought.
The nine aims of the plan are designed to provide a stronger system for the protection of human rights; strengthening judicial independence and the right to a fair trial; legal foreseeability and transparency; protection and promotion of the freedoms of expression, association and religion; strengthening personal liberty and security; safeguarding physical and moral integrity and the private life of the individual; more effective protection of the right to property; protecting vulnerable groups and strengthening social wealth, and finally, high-level administrative and social awareness of human rights.
Some 285 of 393 activities in the plan will be implemented within the specified periods, while the remaining 108 activities will be permanent. Of the 285 activities, six of them are expected to be implemented in a month, 40 in three months, 84 in six months, 131 in a year and 24 in two years. Thus, more than 90% of the activities are to be implemented within a year. Here are some of the activities and their timeframes:
All contact visits with visitors of underage inmates in closed penal institutions will be held in the open, and underage convicts will have scheduled family visits. Convicts and detainees will be given the right to change the people on their visitor list. Children in the 0-6 age group, who are with their convicted or imprisoned mothers, will be delivered to their relatives during contact visits. Also, an opportunity will be provided for disabled convicts or prisoners to be accompanied by a companion or in the form of a contact visit.
Charges against a spouse can also include those who have divorced. Unilateral stalking acts will be defined as crimes. The reasoned decision in the administrative jurisdiction will be delivered within 30 days. The administrations’ deadline for a response to applications will be reduced from 60 days to 30 days. Recordings obtained through listening devices will be destroyed when related to an acquittal. The promotion system of judges and prosecutors will be rearranged in line with objective performance criteria. Additional opportunities will be provided for convicts and detainees in penal institutions during their religious holidays.
There will be continuous and compulsory training for the members of the judiciary. Attorneys will be appointed for women who are victims of domestic violence. Crimes related to human trafficking will be reviewed. An opportunity will be given for the debtor to sell confiscated property. Costs that are reflected on the parties in debt enforcement proceedings will be reduced. Assistant judge and prosecutor posts will be reinstated. Employees will be granted the right of absence on their religious holidays. The duration of open visits of convicts and detainees will be extended. Disabled students will be accommodated in public dormitories free of charge. An "Internship Training Center" will be established for judge and prosecutor candidates. Public relations offices will be established in courthouses. The strategy document on increasing transparency and fighting corruption will be modified. There will be a digital transformation in notary procedures.
The prescription will be removed in disciplinary offenses regarding allegations of torture. Political parties and election legislation, legislation on freedom of expression and legislation on freedom of religion will be reviewed. A court-based family mediation institution will be established. The scope of marriage assistance for young people will be enlarged. The structure of the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey will be updated to receive U.N. accreditation. The scope of alternative sanctions for short-term imprisonment will be diversified. A new regulation will be made in the Turkish Penal Code on discrimination and hate crimes. The Personal Data Protection Law will be brought into line with European Union standards. A regulation will be made in the minority foundations.
There will be new regulations on trade secrets. Legislation on the freedom of assembly will be reviewed. Education time in law faculties will be increased to 5 years. The grievances arising from Zoning Law will be eliminated.
Periodic meetings will be held with nongovernmental organizations. Human rights training exercises will be given to local governors and public administrators. Women's employment in the public sector will be increased. Human rights courses will be increased in primary, secondary and higher education.
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