On May 30, 2019, Ministry of Justice ("Ministry") prepared the judicial reform strategy document ("Strategy Document") which introduces comprehensive changes and improvements to the Turkish judicial system. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey announced and presented the new reforms brought by the Strategy Document to the attendees of a conference on judicial reform strategy.
The Strategy Document is not legally binding and might only be considered as a road map for the government that merely serves to set the general framework and objectives of the new legal reforms, which are expected to come into effect in the coming years. The timeline of implementation of the reforms are not determined and it is likely to become clearer when an action plan is published, which is also explained in the Strategy Document.
The Strategy Document mainly touches upon the following issues: strengthening the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary and improving impartiality, protecting and promoting rights and freedoms more effectively, increasing the transparency of the legal system, simplifying judicial processes, facilitating access to justice, strengthening the right of defense and efficiently protecting the right to trial in a reasonable time. The Strategy Document focuses on the nine (9) aims which have been broken down to sixty three (63) objectives and two hundred and fifty six (256) activities.
Action Plan will cover the budget allocated for the identified objectives and targets, the competent/relevant institutions and the calendar to be adhered to within the framework of the relevant objectives. In order to monitor the implementation of the Strategy Document, the Ministry will issue annual Monitoring Reports. These reports will be prepared in both English and Turkish and they will be made available to public.
The Ministry will also be setting up an organizational structure, Judicial Reform Strategy Monitoring and Evaluation Board ("Board"), with the participation of relevant institutions and organizations to resolve the problems that may arise in the implementation of the Strategy Document and to monitor the implementation process transparently. The Board is to be established within a maximum three months as of the publication of the Strategy Document. The Board is expected to organize meetings periodically and prepare monitoring and evaluation reports, which will be available for public access.
The objectives of the Strategy Document and brief explanations regarding these aims are as follows:
Aim 1: Protection and Improvement of Rights and Freedoms
Efforts under this aim will focus particularly on freedom of expression and press, right to assembly and demonstration and reasonable application of the arrest measures. Detailed provisions on rights and freedoms will be included in the Human Rights Action Plan, which will be published later on. The following activities will be carried out within the scope of this aim:
- Legislation on and practice of freedom of expression will be analyzed to introduce provisions that expand the rights and freedoms of individuals.
- The assurances for legal remedies will be increased against judicial decisions concerning freedom of expression. The ways in which Regional Courts of Appeal's decisions become final and binding after appellate reviews will be revisited in terms of the provisions concerning the freedom of expression with the aim of bringing an additional guarantee for the individuals by ensuring that the Supreme Court also reviews the decisions.
- Legislation and the application regarding custody, detention and other protection measures, affecting the right to freedom and security will be reviewed and measures will be introduced to ensure proportionate implementation of security measures.
- Law No. 5651 on Regulation of Broadcasts via Internet and Prevention of Crimes Committed Through Such Broadcasts and other related legislation will be reviewed and revised as necessary, particularly with a focus on freedom of expression and the methods of blocking access on the internet.
- It will be ensured that Constitutional Court's decisions, rendered upon individual applications, concluding that there has been a violation can be used as a ground for retrial under procedural laws.
- Law No. 6698 on Protection of Personal Data will be reviewed in light of the EU acquis and works on harmonization will be completed.
- A new domestic legal mechanism will be formed for examining applications for right to trial violations within a reasonable time and to award compensation, if necessary.
- To raise awareness and sensitivity for human rights in the judiciary, the compliance of the decisions, rendered by judges and prosecutors, with the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court Human Rights will be monitored and taken into account in their inspection and promotion. Training courses on human rights and reasoning of judgments for arrest will be provided.