Turkey: ICJ condemns purge of judiciary

by | Jul 18, 2016 | News

At a critical moment for Turkish democracy, the ICJ today urged the government to uphold the rule of law and respect Turkey’s obligations under international human rights law. 

The ICJ condemns what appears to be a wholesale attack on the judiciary, implemented within hours of the failed coup attempt of 15 and 16 July.

“At such moments of crisis, it is crucial that the independence and security of tenure of judges is respected, so that public confidence can be maintained in the fairness of the justice system,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General.

“Purging the judiciary now endangers the deepest foundations of the separation of powers and the rule of law. An independent judiciary will be critical to ensure a functioning administration of justice for all people in Turkey as the country emerges from the crisis,” he added.

Reports indicate that on 16 July 2,745 judges were suspended by the High Council for Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Arrest warrants were issued for more than a hundred judges.

Two judges of the Constitutional Court, and ten members the HSYK itself, are reportedly among those detained. The ICJ fears that many of these detentions may be arbitrary.

Allegations that the judges concerned were linked to the attempted coup have not been supported by evidence, and it defies credulity that such a high number of judicial authorities could have been involved in the planning or execution of the military coup d’etat.

According to the ICJ, the measures are arbitrary, and contrary to fundamental rule of law principles.

In June, an ICJ report, Turkey: the judicial system in peril, analysed the increasing government control of the Turkish judiciary, including the HSYK, and arrests and dismissals judges, in violation of international standards.

“This weekend’s mass suspensions and arrests of judges represent a dramatic escalation of an attack on judicial independence that was already underway,” said Tayler.

“Disciplinary proceedings against judges should not proceed until it is clear that they will be heard by a body that is fully independent of the executive, and in accordance with the right to a fair hearing,” he added.

The ICJ is also deeply concerned at suggestions by the government that the death penalty may be introduced for those involved in the failed coup.

Re-introduction of the death penalty would violate Turkey’s obligations under Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, and would amount to inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 of the Convention.

The ICJ considers the death penalty to constitute in all circumstances a violation of the right to life and the prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.


Róisín Pillay, Director, ICJ Europe Programme, t: +32 476 974263 ; e:  roisin.pillay(a)icj.org

Additional information:

Under international standards on the independence of the judiciary, judges should be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or behaviour that renders them unfit to discharge their duties.

The ICJ recently published its Practitioners’ Guide N°13 on Judicial Accountability, a major study on international law and standards on the accountability of judges.

Further guidance on relevant international law and standards can be found in the ICJ Legal Commentary to the Geneva Declaration on Upholding the Rule of Law and the Role of Judges and Lawyers in Times of Crisis.

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