CoE Commissioner calls on Turkey to restore judicial independence and stop targeting human rights defenders

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, in a report published on Wednesday, calls on the Turkish authorities to restore judicial independence and stop the practice of targeting human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists and silencing them by using administrative and judicial actions.

According to a press release, the report is based on the Commissioner’s visit to Turkey carried out in July 2019.

The Commissioner considers that the measures that the authorities took in the aftermath of the state of emergency had devastating consequences on judicial independence and impartiality and threaten the rule of law and human rights in Turkey. Furthermore, she says, the emergency decrees have also had a negative effect on access to justice and to an effective remedy.

The Commissioner calls on the Turkish authorities to revert to the situation before the state of emergency in terms of constitutional and structural guarantees for the independence of judges, as well as procedural fair-trial guarantees, and then to reinforce them progressively.

She also recommends a complete review of criminal legislation in the light of the clear guidance already provided to Turkey by Council of Europe bodies over the years.

Considering that the prevailing attitude within the judiciary represents one of the main problems concerning the administration of justice today, she urges the Turkish authorities to change course and start respecting scrupulously the independence of the judiciary.

While welcoming the authorities’ Judicial Reform Strategy, the Commissioner considers that the measures taken so far do not correspond to current and future needs, which require a more comprehensive and resolute response.

Stressing the importance of civil society organisations and human rights defenders in a democratic society, the Commissioner is alarmed by the hostile environment against them.

Commissioner Mijatovic underscores that lawyers have been affected both as human rights defenders and as an integral part of the judicial process guaranteeing the right to a fair trial, and calls on the authorities to lift the restrictions to procedural defence rights adopted during the state of emergency, and to allow lawyers to work freely and safely.

Source: Cyprus News Agency