Turkish justice minister decries sentence reductions

Published 01.04.2016 00:19

Sentence reductions in cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse were denounced by Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

Bozdağ told reporters that reductions stemming from "unjust provocation" and "good conduct in the hearings" was not binding by law and was simply something "at the disposal of judges," while he implied that loopholes causing courts to hand down reductions may be eliminated in its entirety.

Turkish courts are often criticized for interpreting laws in favor of male perpetrators in domestic violence and sexual abuse cases and delivering lenient sentences.

The government plans to enact a new set of regulations to prevent reduced sentences in domestic violence cases. If enacted, the regulations may prevent a repeat of cases where convicts, some sentenced to life, are eligible for lighter sentences if courts rule they exhibited "good behavior" during the trial, or who murdered unfaithful spouses that "unjustly provoked them." The Supreme Court of Appeals occasionally overturns sentences reduced by local courts and sometimes revokes sentences in domestic violence cases that have been commuted due to legal complaints lodged by the Family and Social Policies Ministry.

The "unjust provocation" the courts base their rulings on mostly refers to infidelity or victims supposedly inciting the perpetrator to commit the crime by their behavior, according to a controversial interpretation of a law that is supposed to be rarely used.

"Laws are not problematic. It is entirely about interpretation. Courts are not obliged to reduce sentences," Bozdağ said. "Judges reducing sentences quash Article 62 [of the Constitution] rather than applying it," he added, referring to the article that enables courts to issue lighter sentences even in cases calling for life imprisonment such as homicide. "The Supreme Court should block [reductions]. We already took steps to stop this but the article remains in place. If necessary, we may change it to include a clause that would stop the reduction of sentences just because a defendant wore a tie and came to hearings clean-shaven," he said. Male defendants often get away with lighter sentences for good manners throughout the hearings, which include showing respect to judges or being well dressed.

The minister ruled out an entire ban on sentence reductions, stressing that abolishing unjust provocation would not "serve justice."

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