Top judge says constitutional courts protect human dignity

The top judge also said individuals have vital rights, which include the right to life, freedom of thought and expression and freedom of belief and conscience.

Kılıc’s remarks came at a congress on Monday held to mark the 52nd anniversary of the establishment of the Constitutional Court. The presidents of constitutional courts of some Asian countries were also in attendance as the event was organized for the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions. Turkey’s term as president of the organization ended with the congress, and Indonesia took over the presidency.

According to Kılıc, constitutions not only protect the national values of the countries they belong to but must also protect some universal values, including the rule of law, democracy and human rights.

Kılıc’s speech came a few days after he gave a strongly worded speech in which he directed harsh criticism at the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The top judge said on April 25 that the judiciary in Turkey is under a new form of tutelage and accused the government of being behind the tutelage.

He also said a judiciary under the tutelage of the ruling party cannot ensure the rule of the law. “Such a [judicial] system ensures the safety of the leaders [of a country] but leaves other people in a state of fear and concern,” he stated.

Erdogan has been the target of harsh criticism due to his efforts to reshuffle the judiciary as his government struggles to contain a recent corruption scandal. Hundreds of judges and prosecutors have been removed from their duties and reassigned to different, often less powerful, posts.

On Monday, Kılıc said constitutions can continue to exist only if they manage to protect human rights and freedoms. “Human rights and freedoms existed in times when states did not exist. Societies which wanted to protect these rights and freedoms needed the existence of states, and after the establishment of states, societies this time needed to protect human rights and freedoms from the power of states. And this need led to the emergence of a separation of powers,” he added.

The Constitutional Court president also noted that the biggest clashes in societies occur due to restrictions imposed by the state on human rights. “In order to avoid these clashes, constitutions should clearly state why the rights and freedoms of individuals are restricted,” he noted. “The fundamental and common duty of constitutional courts is to protect, without making a distinction between races, religions and beliefs, the human dignity, which we believe comes from birth.”

In addition, Kılıc said everyone must be fair but that being fair is sine qua non for members of the judiciary. “We can only protect human dignity, which is entrusted to the conscience of judges, thanks to justice,” he stated.