Chief ombudsman laments low implementation of KDK recommendations

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Turkey’s chief ombudsman, Nihat ÖmeroIlu, has complained that only 20 percent of his office’s recommendations were implemented last year, while this percentage is over 70 percent in Turkey’s Western neighbor Greece and Spain.

Speaking to members of the press in Ankara at a breakfast meeting on Wednesday, ÖmeroIlu pointed out that while the Public Monitoring Institution (KDK), also known as the ombudsman’s office, receives attention in the West and is seen as an important institution, the 1-year-old KDK is not understood very well in Turkey.

Though filing a complaint at his office is free, ÖmeroIlu said, without a formal complaint the KDK can’t take any action. His office wants the authority to apply to administrative courts without having received a formal complaint, he said, and to that effect the office will request an amendment to its constituting legislation. ÖmeroIlu said that the ombudsman’s office should also be able to file suit at the Constitutional Court when the need arises, for example to get laws annulled. “You may criticize our office but its current legal structure makes it very difficult to get a high percentage of our recommendations implemented. It is higher than 70 percent in Greece and Spain. The Spanish ombudsman can go to [the Spanish] Constitutional Court directly. Without a constitutional change we don’t have the authority to take issues to the Constitutional Court,” said ÖmeroIlu, adding that his office received more than 7,600 complaints last year.

“If we get the authority to apply directly to the Constitutional Court to annul laws, then we will become a more influential institution,” ÖmeroIlu said.

The office, which describes itself as “independent and unbiased,” mediates between people who feel that their freedoms and rights have been violated and government institutions.

ÖmeroIlu said that in the first three months of 2014, 14 percent of the office’s recommendations were implemented. The office has received 1,582 formal complaints so far this year, he said 610 in Ankara and 150 in Istanbul.

When asked if there had been any complaint to his office regarding the closure of Twitter, he said no, stressing once again that without a formal complaint his office can take no action.

Access to Twitter was blocked in Turkey on March 20, shortly after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan vowed to “root it out” during a rally only 10 days before the country held local elections. ErdoIan said he didn’t care how the international community reacted and that he would show the world the power of the Turkish Republic. Two weeks later, the Constitutional Court ruled that the ban was unconstitutional and unlawful, and demanded that the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB), which had implemented the ban, lift it immediately.

One journalist asked about whether there had been any complaints about the “parallel structure,” a term the government uses to describe the Hizmet movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen. ÖmeroIlu said his office had received no such complaint.

ÖmeroIlu no longer talks to Öz

When asked about former Istanbul prosecutor Zekeriya Öz’s claim that ÖmeroIlu had pressured him to drop a corruption investigation that implicated prominent businessmen, the head of a state bank and the sons of Cabinet ministers, ÖmeroIlu said he had met with Öz in late December but called the claim a “lie.” Describing Öz as a former close associate, a person he thought of as family, ÖmeroIlu said he had no idea why Öz was lying and that since then, ÖmeroIlu had cut all ties with him.

Öz claimed in early January that ÖmeroIlu and a senior judge tried to intimidate him on behalf of the prime minister in an attempt to get the prosecutor to drop the corruption investigation. ÖmeroIlu said he had suggested including Öz in a vacation program in Bursa, and Öz had accepted. “Of course we talked about what was happening in the country. But it was not about taking a position. He is someone that I see as a brother, a son. I have did not give him a recommendation as to what to do. After the incident [Öz’s claims] I have not talked with him. I will not talk to him ever again,” ÖmeroIlu said.

(CihanToday’s Zaman)