Opposition parties block AK Party plan to abolish military courts

“Wanting the continuation of the military judiciary and military courts in the new constitution, before anything else, is tantamount to wanting the continuation of the duality in the judiciary which was created by this coup constitution,” said lawyer Kasap.

Opposition parties block AK Party plan to abolish military courts

World Bulletin/News Desk

The Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on Tuesday vehemently opposed a government proposal to abolish military courts, submitted to the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, but keeping military courts comes at a high price to the detriment of democracy and fair trials, experts warn.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the latest meeting of the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which is currently drafting a new constitution for Turkey to replace the current one that was introduced after the 1980 coup d'état and bears militaristic overtones suggested abolishing the military judiciary entirely. However, the MHP and CHP insist military courts must stay, while the only backer of the government party on this issue is the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

The AK Party's proposal says military courts can only be referred to in times of war and to try offenders who violate military rules only. The current system where the military has independent courts also causes a duality in the court system, another reason opponents of military courts often cite.

The CHP and the MHP say military courts should stay. In their proposal to the commission the two parties jointly argued that the “military judiciary should comprise military courts and disciplinary courts,” and that these courts be in charge of “crimes committed by individuals who are members of the military during military service.” The joint proposal, however, makes clear that civilians cannot be tried at a military court.

The counter-proposal, also a joint suggestion by the AK Party and the BDP, suggests that there shall be no military courts with the exceptions of disciplinary courts and warfare.

Lawyer Mehmet Kasap, who heads the Law and Life Association, however, notes that keeping military courts is tantamount to supporting a militaristic understanding. Kasap told Today's Zaman. “Wanting the continuation of the military judiciary and military courts in the new constitution, before anything else, is tantamount to wanting the continuation of the duality in the judiciary which was created by this coup constitution. But what should be is that in a new and civilian constitution [purged of military influence], universal norms should be pronounced. Turkey has been fined many times by the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] over the failure of the Turkish military judiciary to organize fair trials. There is serious criticism that in the military [judges and prosecutors] function within the chain of command and that there is evidence to prove these concerns valid.”

He said if the CHP and MHP have a good reason to want to keep the military courts, they need to explain this to the public.

“They need to explain whether this is because they don't trust the civilian judiciary, or whether this is because the influence of people out of the military is too much in their parties. If they think it is better for soldiers to be tried by people who know what they are doing, then they can argue for specialized courts, such as traffic courts or employment courts. But the military supreme court of appeals by itself is not a system one can defend especially at this time when we are discussing merging the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals under one roof. You can't defend duality in the judiciary at such a time.”

In a related development, the AK Party withdrew its earlier proposal to merge the two high courts in Tuesday's meeting. The AK Party previously suggested establishing one appeals court that would assume all appeals functions. Giving up on this suggestion indicates that the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals are likely to stay in Turkey's new constitution, if and when it is adopted.

The AK Party also toned down an earlier proposal regarding the structure of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). As opposed to its former stand that the HSYK should remain as is, the AK Party said in the latest commission meeting that it was likely to support the opposition's view that there should be two separate bodies, one for judges and one for prosecutors.

Last Mod: 02 Ağustos 2013, 10:38
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