European Commission welcomes Constitutional Court’s HSYK decision

The European Commission has stated that it welcomes a decision of Turkey’s Constitutional Court partially annulling a highly controversial law to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

In a written statement to Today’s Zaman, Peter Stano, spokesman for European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule, said: “The Commission has expressed serious concerns regarding the potential impact of the amended law on the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in Turkey. We understand that the Constitutional Court has found that provisions transferring certain powers from the Plenary to the Minister of Justice are against the Turkish Constitution. In this respect we welcome the decision of the Court.”

The HSYK law represents a major step back from a government-proposed constitutional referendum in 2010 that brought a more democratic and pluralistic structure to the HSYK, by which most members would be elected by the 12,000 members of the HYSK. With the new law, judges and prosecutors are required to have 20 years of experience as a prerequisite for HSYK membership. In this way, young judges and prosecutors will be prevented from becoming members of the board.

A deepening conflict between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the Constitutional Court took on a new dimension on Saturday when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan directed harsh criticism at the court’s judges over some of their recent rulings, while the court’s top judge responded to the prime minister, saying court members are simply doing their job.

On April 2 the Constitutional Court ordered that access to Twitter be restored, calling the two-week ban on the social media platform a violation of the right to free expression. Twitter was blocked after the prime minister expressed his dislike of the microblogging site after several users posted audio recordings related to an investigation into government corruption that became public with police raids and detentions carried out on Dec. 17, 2013.

Erdogan harshly criticized the court after the ruling, saying he did not respect the decision.

On April 11 the Constitutional Court partially annulled parts of the HSYK law that gives the justice minister sweeping powers over the board. The court’s decision was published in the Official Gazette on April 12.