Turkey: judicial independence and freedom of expression

The ICJ welcomed today the Special Rapporteur’s report on Turkey and his preliminary findings on his visit to the country last November.

The ICJ welcomes and concurs with the finding that the “situation of the judiciary is undermining freedom of opinion and expression”.

Mass dismissals of judges have had a devastating effect on the judiciary’s independence, already weakened by the current state of emergency. Furthermore, we are concerned at the claim by the President that the state of emergency will remain in place until Turkey reaches “peace and prosperity”.  Whatever other questions there may be about their validity, maintaining emergency derogations to human rights law instruments for such an open-ended period would clearly not be in line with international law.

The ICJ is also concerned at the constitutional amendments approved on the 16th of April by a referendum. Among other things, the amendments have given powers to the President and the Parliament to appoint all the members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the body tasked with protecting the independence of these professions.

The judiciary has had in the past an important role in implementing legislation that has severely limited the freedom of journalists to carry out their job.

The independence of the judiciary has now been eroded to its core in Turkey. Without it, there is no effective remedy in the country to protect freedom of opinion and expression.

Further reading: ICJ’s briefing paper Turkey: the Judicial System in Peril

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