On 30 May 2019, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Republic of Turkey, made a public announcement about a reform strategy for the judicial system of Turkey. According to the announcement, a judicial reform strategy will be implemented and a strategy document outlining the judicial reform strategy (the “Strategy Document”) has been published.
With this extensive reform strategy, the government of Turkey intends to strengthen the principles of the state of law, protect and improve rights and freedoms and ensure a fast and effective judicial system.
Improving and Protecting Rights and Freedoms
In order to increase the standards of rights and freedoms, the Strategy Document foresees that legislation will be reviewed and amendments will be made accordingly. For example, Data Protection Law will be reviewed in light of the GDPR and applicable EU legislation and compliance will be ensured. Furthermore, a new Human Rights Action Plan will be prepared and implemented effectively. Within its scope, judiciary members’ awareness and responsiveness will be increased by education programmes on freedom of speech, freedom of the press and human rights.
Strengthening the Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary and Improving the Transparency of the Legal System
The Strategy Document states that judges’ and prosecutors’ assignments, transfers and promotions will be made based on merit and objective criteria and the discipline protocol for judges and prosecutors will be restructured. Within this framework, assigned location of senior judges and prosecutors to officiate will be guaranteed by the state. Moreover, the Strategy Document foresees the strengthening of judicial ethics by providing training on occupational ethics before and after becoming a member of the judiciary.
Furthermore, relevant establishments, nongovernmental organizations, academic and social circles will be involved in the law-making processes.
Increasing the Quality and Quantity of Human Resources
In order to increase the quality of law education, the length of study and quotas in law schools will be reviewed. The length of study will increase to five years from four years. Law graduates will be required to pass a Legal Proficiency Exam to become a judge, prosecutor, public notary or lawyer. Law graduates who pass the first exam will be required to pass another exam in order to become a judge, prosecutor or public notary.
Increasing Performance and Effectiveness
By using the “Target Deadlines in Judiciary”, the transparency of the system will be improved and the right to a fair trial will be protected more effectively by shortening the duration of judicial procedures. Furthermore, the electronic notification system will be used more broadly in order to overcome problems arising from notification procedures.
Ensuring the Effective Use of Right of Defense
In order to increase the quality of legal consulting services, law graduates will be required to pass a Legal Proficiency Exam before starting their law internship and improvements will be made to the duration and effectiveness of the law internship. Moreover, because lawyers are a constituent part of the judiciary, new innovations, such as special passports, will be made to ensure that lawyers carry out their profession successfully.
Enabling Access to Justice
The Strategy Document states that application periods will be re-organized and be clearer and more certain. The civil law legal aid application procedure will be simplified and be able to be made on the e-Government website. Further measures will be taken to enable access to justice for disadvantaged groups such as handicapped people, elderly people and minorities. Furthermore, the general conditions of the judicial protection insurance will be updated to enable better access to justice.
Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System
Law school graduates will be employed by judicial police to increase the quality of investigation procedures. Additionally, the scope of effective remorse provisions will be expanded and investigations regarding some actions, to be specified later, will be able to be terminated by an agreement, which must be signed between the offender and the prosecutor. The types and duration of alternative sanctions will also be expanded.
Except for some types of gross misconduct, the actions of juveniles – i.e. those younger than fifteen (15) years old – will be evaluated using juvenile protection mechanisms instead of investigation and prosecution procedures, if the juvenile is a first-time offender.
Furthermore, improvements will be made to investigations and prosecutions regarding cyber crimes to ensure their effectiveness.
Simplifying Judicial Processes
In order to simplify judicial processes, the scope of petty sessions will be expanded.
Moreover, public notary on-duty practice will continue. Additionally, a copy of the public notary transactions that are executed in foreign representative offices, will be instantly available from the nearest public notary in Turkey.
Development of Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods
Alternative dispute resolution methods for criminal suits will be expanded by widening the scope of the alternative dispute resolution provisions and implementing a special dispute resolution model for juveniles pushed to crime.
Alternative dispute resolution methods for lawsuits will be developed by establishing alternative dispute resolution methods for courts and court-based family mediation. Moreover, application for mediation will be a cause of action for some subjects, such as consumer disputes.