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Firing Bench-mates: The Human Rights and Rule of Law Implications of the Turkish Constitutional Court’s Dismissal of Its Two Members: Decision of 4 August 2016, E. 2016/6 (Miscellaneous file), K. 2016/12

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PhD candidate, University of Glasgow

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1 E. 2016/6 (Miscellaneous file), K. 2016/12, 4 August 2016, <kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Uploads/2016-12.docx>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish). The English translation of the Decision can be found on the Court’s website, <www.constitutionalcourt.gov.tr/inlinepages/press/PressReleases/detail/pdf/2016-12.pdf>, visited 13 February 2017.

2 For an overview of the purges and persecution in the aftermath of the coup attempt, see Research Turkey, ‘An Overview of the post-Coup Attempt Measures in Turkey’, 10 April 2017, <www.researchturkey.org/en/an-overview-of-the-post-coup-attempt-measures-in-turkey>, visited 13 June 2017.

3 On the erosion of the rule of law in Turkey, see United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression - Mission to Turkey’, A/HRC/35/22/Add.3, 7 June 2017, <www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session35/Documents/A_HRC_35_22_Add_3_E.docx>, visited 13 June 2017, para. 66ff; European Commission, ‘Turkey 2016 Report’, 9 November 2016, <ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_turkey.pdf>, visited 13 June 2017, paras. 17-20; Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Resolution 2156, ‘The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey’, 25 April 2017, <assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/XRef/Xref-XML2HTML-en.asp?fileid=23665&lang=en>, visited 13 June 2017; ‘Turkey - Opinion on Emergency Decree Laws Nos 667-676 adopted following the failed coup of 15 July 2016’, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) (Venice, 9-10 December 2016), <www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2016)037-e>, visited 13 June 2017.

4 On the establishment and controversial functioning of the ‘criminal peace judgeships’, see ‘Turkey - Opinion on the duties, competences and functioning of the criminal peace judgeships’, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) (Venice, 10-11 March 2017)’, <www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD(2017)004-e>, visited 18 March 2017.

5 As of 11 June 2017, 2,581 judges and prosecutors have been arrested since the coup attempt, including 104 Members of Yargıtay (the Court of Cassation) and 41 Members of Danıştay (the Council of State), on the same grounds. See news report ‘Adalet Bakanlığı FETÖ soruşturması verilerini açıkladı’ [The Ministry of Justice Releases Data of FETÖ Investigation], Cumhuriyet, 11 June 2017, <www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/758621/Adalet_Bakanligi_FETO_sorusturmasi_verilerini_acikladi.html>, visited 13 June 2017.

6 See K. Gözler, ‘15 Temmuz Kararnameleri: Olağanüstü Hâl Kanun Hükmünde Kararnamelerinin Hukukî Rejiminin İfsadı Hakkında Bir İnceleme’ [15 July Decrees: A Review on the Subversion of the Legal Regime of State of Emergency Decree-Laws], 17 February 2017, <www.anayasa.gen.tr/15-temmuz-kararnameleri.pdf>, p. 11-14, visited 13 June 2017.

7 Turkish Constitutional Court, Press Release, 4 August 2016, <www.anayasa.gov.tr/icsayfalar/duyurular/detay/49.html>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish).

8 Turkish Constitutional Court, Press Release, 30 December 2016, <www.anayasa.gov.tr/icsayfalar/duyurular/detay/60.html>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish).

9 E. 2016/6, para. 8.

10 Ibid., para. 11.

11 Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the Gülen movement, is a Turkish Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. For a brief account of the nature of the movement, its political involvement and links to the coup attempt, see ‘Turkey - Opinion on Emergency Decree Laws Nos. 667-676 Adopted Following the Failed Coup of 15 July 2016’, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) (Venice, 9-10 December 2016) paras. 10-14, www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2016)037-e, visited 13 February 2017.

12 E. 2016/6, para. 15.

13 Ibid., paras. 17-18.

14 See ‘Turkey officially designates Gulen religious group as terrorists’, Reuters, 31 May 2016, <www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-gulen-idUSKCN0YM167>, visited 13 February 2017.

15 On specially authorised courts, see L. Perilli, ‘Report on the findings and recommendations of the Peer Review Mission on criminal justice (Istanbul and Ankara, 19-23 May 2014)’, January 2015, <www.avrupa.info.tr/sites/default/files/2016-11/Criminal_Justice_report_final_January_2015.pdf>, visited 13 June 2017.

16 Ibid., para. 19.

17 Chief Public Prosecutor of Ankara, E. 2016/24769, 6 June 2016. The indictment, as summarised in para. 16/n of the Decision, charges 73 people, including Fethullah Gülen, with leading an armed terrorist organisation, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or prevent its functioning, political and military espionage, embezzlement, fraud, forgery of official documents, money laundering, as well as illegal recording, transfer, dissemination and seizure of personal data.

18 E. 2016/6, para. 20.

19 Ibid., para. 23.

20 Ibid., para. 24.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., para. 34.

25 Ibid., paras. 35-38.

26 Ibid., para. 68.

27 Ibid., paras. 69-81.

28 Ibid., para. 78.

29 Ibid., para. 79.

30 Ibid., para. 85.

31 Ibid., paras. 86-87.

32 Ibid., paras. 91-93.

33 Ibid., para. 98.

34 P. Kingsley, ‘Turkey Purges 4,000 More Officials, and Blocks Wikipedia’, The New York Times, 30 April 2017, <www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/world/europe/turkey-purge-wikipedia-tv-dating-shows.html>, visited 6 May 2017.

35 For the English translation of Decree-Law 667, see ‘Turkey - Emergency Decree Laws of July – September 2016 Nos. 667-674’, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). <www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-REF(2016)061-e>, visited 13 February 2017.

36 E. Özbudun, Türk Anayasa Hukuku [Turkish Constitutional Law], (Yetkin 2010) p. 259-260.

37 E. 2016/166, K. 2016/159, 12 October 2016, <kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Uploads/2016-159.doc>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish).

38 E. 2016/167, K. 2016/160, 12 October 2016, <kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Uploads/2016-160.doc>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish).

39 E. 2016/171, K. 2016/164, 2 November 2016, <kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Uploads/2016-164.doc>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish).

40 E. 2016/172, K. 2016/165, 2 November 2016, <kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Uploads/2016-165.doc>, visited 13 February 2017 (in Turkish).

41 For an analysis of this shift, see S. Esen, ‘Judicial Control of Decree-Laws in Emergency Regimes — A Self-Destruction Attempt by the Turkish Constitutional Court?’, 19 December 2016, Blog of the IACL, AIDC, <iacl-aidc-blog.org/2016/12/19/judicial-control-of-the-decree-laws-in-emergency-regimes-a-self-destruction-attempt-by-the-turkish-constitutional-court/>, visited 13 February 2017.

42 Such court-packing is not unprecedented in Turkey. Two weeks before the 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish parliament passed Law No. 6723, which dismissed nearly all Members of Danıştay (the Council of State) and Yargıtay (the Court of Cassation). The case challenging the constitutionality of this law is still pending before the Constitutional Court with the file number E. 2016/144. See T. Olcay, ‘Resetting the Turkish Judiciary’, 1 July 2016, International Journal of Constitutional Law Blog, <www.iconnectblog.com/2016/07/resetting-the-turkish-judiciary>, visited 13 February 2017.

43 ECtHR 30 May 2006, Case No. 38184/03, Matyjek v Poland (dec.).

44 E. 2016/6, para. 95.

45 Ibid., para. 98.

46 Ibid., para. 100.

47 HSYK Decision No. 2016/426, 24 August 2016, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/files/karar.pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 57-60; HSYK Decision No. 2016/428, 31 August 2016, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/files/gerekceli-karar.pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 57-61; HSYK Decision No. 2016/430, 4 October 2016, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/files/karar(1).pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 57-60; HSYK Decision No. 2016/440, 15 November 2016, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/Dosyalar/c160bbb7-e86b-490c-8f1a-73ed4606d0f0.pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 62-65; HSYK Decision No. 2017/35, 13 February 2017, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/files/GerekceliKarar(1).pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 65-68; HSYK Decision No. 2017/113, 17 March 2017, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/Dosyalar/Karar-20-03-2017.pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 65-68; HSYK Decision No. 2017/665, 3 April 2017, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/Dosyalar/04-04-2017-karar.pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 65-68; HSYK Decision No. 2017/682, 5 May 2017, <www.hsk.gov.tr/Eklentiler/Dosyalar/08-05-2017-Karar.pdf>, visited 19 May 2017, p. 65-68.

48 Z. Arslan, ‘Mahkememiz Başkanı Sayın Zühtü Arslan'ın İstanbul Tahkim Merkezi (ISTAC) “Kamu Kurum ve Kuruluşları Açısından Tahkim” Konferansı Açış Konuşması’ [‘The Opening Speech of “Arbitration for State Institutions and Organisations” Conference by Zühtü Arslan, President of the Constitutional Court’], 19 December 2016, <www.anayasa.gov.tr/icsayfalar/basin/konusmalar/4.html>, visited 13 February 2017.

49 ‘AYM Başkanvekili Yıldırım: Kara Kara Düşünüyoruz [Vice-President of the Constitutional Court Yıldırım: We are Agonising]’, Cumhuriyet, 24 November 2016, <www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/635522/AYM_Baskanvekili_Yildirim__Kara_kara_dusunuyoruz.html>, visited 13 February 2017.

50 See n. 11 supra, para. 186.

51 ECtHR 8 November 2016, Case No. 56511/16, Mercan v Turkey (dec.); ECtHR 29 November 2016, Case No. 59061/16, Zihni v Turkey (dec.). For an analysis, see E. Turkut, ‘Has the European Court of Human Rights Turned a Blind Eye to Alleged Rights Abuses in Turkey?’, 28 December 2016, EJIL: Talk, <www.ejiltalk.org/has-the-european-court-of-human-rights-turned-a-blind-eye-to-alleged-rights-abuses-in-turkey/>, visited 13 February 2017. Taking no account of the criticisms with regard to its structure, functions and its failure to start working, the Strasbourg Court more recently directed applicants to seek remedies before the yet-to-be established State of Emergency Acts Review Commission. See ECtHR 12 June 2017, Case No. 70478/16, Köksal v Turkey (dec.).

52 The Court rejected two constitutional complaints in February by two dismissed judges, arguing that they should apply to the Council of State in order to exhaust the ordinary remedies. See Murat Hikmet Çakmakçı Başvurusu B. No. 2016/35094, 15 February 2017, <www.kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Content/pdfkarar/2016-35094.pdf>, visited 13 June 2017; Hacı Osman Kaya Başvurusu B. No. 2016/41934, 16 February 2017, <www.kararlaryeni.anayasa.gov.tr/Content/pdfkarar/2016-41934.pdf>, visited 13 June 2017. As per Art. 11/2 of Decree-Law 685, unlike other public officials, the dismissed members of the judiciary will apply to the Council of State instead of this Commission. As of 13 June 2017, the Court has yet to decide any constitutional complaints from non-judiciary applicants, even though the State of Emergency Acts Review Commission still has not started accepting applications.

53 For an analysis of the establishment of this commission, see T. Olcay, ‘State of Emergency Acts Review Commission used to hold off proper legal review’, April Public Law (2017) p. 316.

54 Z. Arslan, ‘The 15th July Coup Attempt and the State of Emergency: A New Challenge for the Constitutional Democracy in Turkey’, 3rd Congress of the Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions (AACC), <www.anayasa.gov.tr/icsayfalar/etkinlikler/pdf/endonezya_baskanbey_konusma_eng.pdf>, visited 13 February 2017.

55 See text to n. 12 supra.

* PhD candidate, University of Glasgow

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