The fifth judicial package will fail us, just like those before it

Justice Minister Gül recently mentioned an impending ‘fifth judicial package.’ In the past, such ‘judicial packages’ have claimed they will broadening freedoms, while instead cracking down on justice further. Why should this one be any different?

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said it was time to “roll up our sleeves for the 5th Judicial Package.” Before saying this, he made an announcement that just about made us all lose our minds. He said, “Turkey has stepped into a new age in the last 19 years with the will for continuous reform toward better quality, more predictable, and more accessible justice services. Our will for reform continues to grow stronger in line with the nation’s expectations of judicial justice and the needs of the age.”

Members of the government, for a long time, have been making similar statements. They have done wrong and are bragging about it. This is what is called, “reflecting or mirroring.” For example, they hate democracy and engage in many practices that erode our democratic institutions, but they continuously praise democracy and tell us how democratic they are. The Minister’s statement is just one example.
We called it ‘perception’ in the past, within the context of populist methods. It has now become a kind of bullying tactic. It is an ambition that can be summarized as them saying, “Let them go mad so that we can continue governing.”

For the last two years, my heart skips a beat every time someone mentions a new ‘judicial package.’ In one of the previous ‘judicial packages,’ they claimed they were broadening freedom of expression. We answered and at the same time told the public that there was no expansion. They were just wrapping increased pressure up in a shiny package.

The proof of this is that in 32 years, five presidents filed 1,816 suits on charges of “insulting the president,” while 38,581 cases have been filed in the last six years under President Erdoğan on the same charge.
At some point, they came out and announced that they were withdrawing their complaints regarding charges of insulting the president. Nevertheless, since this charge is one that concerns public order and is not subject to filing a complaint, the trials continued and fines were issued in almost all cases. The president’s lawyers made millions.

In 2021, Turkey’s judicial year was inaugurated with prayers while the head of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs stood side by side. After seeing these photos, even the most religious people were upset. They reacted by saying, “Justice is in God’s hands in Turkey.” It was Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the minor partner in the ruling alliance, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who responded saying, “These stone-hearted people are disturbed by prayers.” Bahçeli knows very well the meaning of judicial independence and secularism; however, whenever it does not suit him, he demonstrates his awesome inconsistencies.

It is as if people’s faith in justice has not been shattered and we have not been forced to seek justice on social media. It is as if we are not worried that at one point everyone will start to take justice into their own hands. It is as if, according to the OECD report, Turkey has not been the country with the fastest drop in confidence in justice and in satisfaction with education among 36 countries in the last 10 years. In Turkey, citizens’ confidence in justice has fallen by 22 points from 2010 to 2020 to 38 percent.

For some reason, the pro-government paper Yeni Akit is trying to manipulate the contents of these judicial packages. They have been advocating for and commenting on the 5th Judicial Package saying, “The indefinite alimony, three months of preventive detention for those who do not pay their alimony, the confiscation of children, victims of slander, custody victims, family court victims and victims of other family affairs, are all waiting for the Parliament to open on October 1. They expect a speedy processing and completion of the 5th Judicial Package.”

They have not refrained from revealing their true aims as well: “Problems of the Family Court and accompanying indefinite alimony, confiscation of children, the verbal statements of 6,284 women and the problems experienced by slander victims have been the most important survival problem of our country. This issue is a matter of our homeland and needs to be resolved as soon as possible. In case that work on this package is interrupted, the Turkish family structure will collapse completely. Feminists, LGBTI associations and women’s federations that demonstrate their strength by saying ‘We are stronger than the government,’ would then be achieving their goals.”

This last paragraph is absurd. I refer to this not to encourage you to take Yeni Akit seriously, but to show those these judicial packages serve. The changes that have been packaged as judicial reform are attacks on our rights, and how the government’s mentality of justice serves certain individuals.

In Turkey, where all the institutions of the modern state have collapsed, we waved goodbye to the ‘rule of law’ long ago.

There is no structure left where the law is applied effectively and there is no sign of judicial independence. So much so that according to the 2020 data of the World Justice Project (WJP), Turkey ranks 107th out of 128 countries in terms of “rule of law,” just above Nigeria and Iran. When the situation is this, what judicial reform and judicial package are we talking about?

This all has to do with perception, not justice. The only way out of this quagmire is for the government to change as soon as possible.