Attempted Coup’s Impact on Turkish Judiciary

The failed coup represents the loss of almost one fifth of the judicial workforce in one go. It leaves an enormous workload, as the Judiciary will have to deal with the huge number of charges that are being brought before them, not only against their own members but also against thousands of military and public personnel. However, it should be noted that the majority of the conglomerate judiciary remains in duty and intact as the courts continued their normal functioning on Monday morning without any interruption.

We are quite confident that the Turkish Judiciary, whose hard working members are long accustomed to dealing with massive workload, will be able to deal with any additional workload as a result of the failed coup attempt.

The Higher Council for Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) has quickly taken all measures in order to deal with this extraordinary situation. HSYK immediately cancelled the traditional judicial holiday. Judges and public prosecutors have had to cancel their annual holiday plans that were traditionally used up between 20 July and 1 September. Traditionally Turkish judiciary reduces the workload to a minimum to allow its members to rest during this period. Thus, the judiciary who have given up their judicial holiday will be able to deal with the sudden workload swiftly and properly.

While foreign sources have speculated as to whether this incident would be used to suppress opposition, local media coverage on the arrests suggests that they are accused of being members of a parallel establishment that the National Security Council has already declared as a terrorist organization threatening the state. Criminal experts concur that with last weekend’s attempt, the element of using armed forces means this declaration has full legal basis.

This major shakeup of the judiciary, however, will undoubtedly have adverse effects on ordinary judicial matters. It means that the judges will have to be replaced in pending proceedings. New judges will need to familiarize themselves with the existing proceedings and this will result in delays. Judges will need to use their holiday entitlements outside of traditional holiday times which will result in further unplannable delays also.

The one fifth of judges who were on arrest lists may have been lacking the essential element of impartiality that the judiciary’s appointment and promotion systems failed to eliminate upon appointment. I am hopeful that the failed coup may result in further improvement of the judiciary’s institutional systems where meritocracy, transparency and accountability prevail once again.

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