The International Association of Judges (IAJ) called on leaders of the European Union to not ignore the Turkish government’s judicial abuses in a written statement issued on Thursday in advance of a high-level EU-Turkey summit in Varna, Bulgaria, scheduled for March 26.
“Everyone in Europe is aware that 150 journalists are detained in Turkey and that the majority of them have no idea what the indictments are,” read the opening lines of the statement signed by Edith Zeller m.p., president of the Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ); José Igreja Matos m.p., president of the European Association of Judges (EAJ); Tamara Trotman m.p., president of Judges for Judges; and Filipe Marques m.p., president of Magistrats Européens pour la Democratie et les Libertés (MEDEL).
The IAJ stated that “All judgments issued to date fundamentally contradict the rights and principles which form the (common) basis of European law,” and added, “This shocking reality signifies that a large number of innocent persons are illegally prosecuted and this situation must not be ignored as individuals and the country as a whole will suffer from the adverse effects.”
Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday that Turkey and the European Union must cooperate in areas of common interest. “We need to find a way to talk to each other openly and cooperate in areas of common interest,” Tusk told reporters.
The full text of the IAJ statement is as follows:
“Everyone in Europe is aware that 150 journalists are detained in Turkey and that the majority of them have no idea what the indictments are. All judgments issued to date fundamentally contradict the rights and principles which form the (common) basis of European law.
Additionally, over 25% of all Turkish judges and prosecutors, namely more than 3,000, are also facing pre-trial detention.
First of all, this shocking reality signifies that a large number of innocent persons are illegally prosecuted and this situation must not be ignored as individuals and the country as a whole will suffer from the adverse effects.
Secondly, the dismissal of 4279 judges and prosecutors (out of a total of approximately 12,000 throughout Turkey) creates huge and damaging losses within the offices of the Turkish judiciary and prosecutors.
The existence of a highly qualified and independent judiciary within a country is one of the corner stones of a democracy under the rule of law.
It is therefore of utmost importance that Europe makes all possible efforts to persuade Turkey to remedy this unacceptable situation and it is without doubt a major concern for both Turkey and Europe.
The Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey is composed of four major European associations of judges:
- The Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ)
- The European Association of Judges
- Judges for Judges
- The “Magistrats Europeens pour la Democratie et les Libertes” (MEDEL)
These associations have been closely following the developments of the Turkish judiciary for a number of years. The regression of independence alongside the increasing influence of the government and President plus pressures put on judges and prosecutors all started prior to 2016. Then the abuse which took place regarding the state of emergency following the “coup d’etat” in 2016 has left the country deprived of an independent judiciary and consequently no governing by rule of law.
It is a fact that several current criminal proceedings (which have been under observation) clearly demonstrate how low standards are. High standards are essential elements in a State governed by the rule of law. The red line in the ongoing proceedings, proof or no proof, reveals that judgements have to follow internal directives from the executive power. Disobeying these orders will endanger the life of any judge or prosecutor who dares to follow his/her professional conscience.
In short, there is no independent judiciary in Turkey. This fact not only has consequences for the thousands of illegally detained persons (not only judges), but also will affect all areas/facets of daily life in Turkey and also relations between Turkey and other countries.
Political pressure convinced the Turkish government to free some of the detained journalists, one of whom was Deniz Yucel whose plight was thoroughly covered by international media reports. However, many judges, prosecutors, lawyers and journalists are still being held hostage.
Turkey continues to give the impression of ‘business as usual’ and is again trying to re-instate contact with Europe whilst simultaneously refusing to stop the witch-hunt of opponents who are being detained and prosecuted without foundation.
The Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey reminds all stakeholders of the European Union and member states not to close their eyes in this instance to a neighbouring country where fundamental European principles and values do not exist – whilst it (Turkey) remains a candidate for EU membership.
Whitewashing the situation will only evoke distrust among the European population and it would also have an immense effect on further co-operation between the European Union and Turkey because no independent judiciary exists any longer in Turkey.”