In ceremony with Erdoğan, top Turkish judge emphasizes judicial independence

During a ceremony that saw the attendance of Erdoğan, Constitutional Court chairman Zühtü Arslan emphasized judicial independence and urged politicians to refrain from “targeting” judges and making “accusations intended to damage personal and institutional reputation.”

Duvar English

The Constitutional Court head Zühtü Arslan on April 25 addressed a ceremony to mark the top court’s 61st foundation anniversary. The opening of the ceremony saw the attendance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

In his speech, Arslan said that the assurance of basic rights and freedoms is of utmost importance for society, and the principle of separation of powers guarantees this right.

He said that Turkey can continue to be a democratic country that is based on human rights and the rule of law only if two “conditions” are satisfied. “Firstly, we need to form a healthy relationship with those who are not like us at the societal level, who think and live in a different way than us. If we don’t accept the ontological existence of those whom we see as ‘others,’ we can’t form this healthy relationship.”

As the second “condition,” he emphasized the independence of the judiciary, which is protected by the Constitution’s 138th Article. “On the other hand, the democratic republic’s future depends on the full realization of the principle of separation of powers and in this context, especially of judicial independence…In this context, the 138th Article of our Constitution on the ‘Independence of the Courts’ regulates the judiciary’s independence and unbiasedness,” he said, adding that this article is the “insurance of the democratic rule of law.”

Without giving any names, he said that “accusations intended to damage the reputation” of the top court and its members and target the judges “instead of criticizing” their rulings “have no use at all.” “On the contrary, heavy attacks against the Constitutional Court shake the society’s trust in the judiciary and damages all of our institutions, especially the judiciary that has a job of protecting the democratic rule of law.”

In March, Erdoğan’s ally far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli had targeted the Constitutional Court over its ruling to lift the decision to freeze Peoples’ Democratic Party's (HDP) bank accounts.

Bahçeli had deemed the top court “the backyard of the separatist terrorist organization” and argued it “is not the court of the Turkish nation.”