GRECO concerned about lack of judicial independence, transparency of legislative process in Turkey

The Council of Europe’s 49-member Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) has published two reports assessing Turkey’s record on preventing and combating corruption, which with few exceptions noted a worrying lack of progress in many areas.

In the first report, GRECO expressed concern about fundamental structural changes that have taken place in Turkey recently, putting the independence of the judiciary from the executive and political powers at stake.

The report says the fact that the newly established Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) is appointed by the president of the republic and Parliament, and none of its members are elected by the judiciary itself, runs counter to the fundamental principle of an independent judiciary.

Furthermore, the report notes that the executive has retained significant influence over a number of key issues regarding the running of the judiciary: The process of selecting and recruiting candidate judges, reassignments of judicial officeholders against their will and disciplinary procedures all have a negative impact on the security of tenure of judicial officeholders.

According to the report, the transparency of the legislative process in Parliament remains a major concern. A detailed code of ethics for the deputies is also still needed, but a draft Law on Ethical Conduct of deputies, which has been tabled in Parliament, may be seen as a first step to providing appropriate guidance to deputies on their conduct and obligations concerning conflicts of interest (such as gifts, contacts with third parties and lobbying).

GRECO notes that only two out of 22 of its recommendations on these issues have been implemented satisfactorily by Turkey, leading GRECO to describe the current level of compliance as “globally unsatisfactory.”

The second report expresses disappointment at the situation regarding the transparency of political financing in Turkey. While the adoption of guidelines for the financial audit of political parties is a positive development, considerable progress is yet to be made on a large number of GRECO’s recommendations in this area -– many of which focus on the adoption of new laws and practices on political contributions and expenditure as well as public disclosure.

Turkey has been asked to report back to GRECO in the second half of 2018 with regard to progress on the pending recommendations.

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