Turkey’s Court of Cassation’s recent criminal complaint against members of its Constitutional Court amounts to a political coup attempt by its judiciary, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) Co-chair Tuncer Bakırhan said on Thursday.
Bakırhan argued that Turkey is going through a period in its legal and political history when the coup mechanism is at its most vivid, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) alliance of suspending the constitution.
🔴 Turkey's judiciary crisis: opposition HEDEP Co-chair Tuncer Bakırhan (@tuncerbakirhan) says the Court of Cassation's criminal complaint against Constitutional Court members amounts to a political coup attempt.#HEDEP | #Turkey | #Politicshttps://t.co/bi6uxXjXXK pic.twitter.com/pcZCwpwYhM
— MedyaNews (@medyanews_) November 9, 2023
According to Bakırhan, the country has been undergoing a gradual process of de-constitutionalisation since 2015, when peace talks collapsed between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a short-lived attempt to end the Kurdish conflict – and the government began cracking down on Kurdish and dissenting circles.
Bakırhan slammed the judiciary’s political intervention, pointing to the ruling party’s targeting of the Constitutional Court. He argued that the ruling party’s encouragement of the Court of Cassation, especially in the ongoing closure case against the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was a precursor to the current legal crisis.
Bakırhan also recalled Turkey’s previous refusal to recognise various European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings on the release of imprisoned Kurdish politicians, and noted MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s previous calls for the dissolution of the Constitutional Court.
“When the highest institution of the law in the country is so easily threatened, no one is safe. No one has the right to remain silent now,” said Bakırhan. “Making such open and comfortable statements aimed at overthrowing the constitutional order is actually declaring war on society.”
Political parties react to the Court of Cassation’s move
The HEDEP co-chair’s statement is one of several reactions following the decision of the Court of Cassation on Wednesday to file a criminal complaint against members of the Constitutional Court over the high court’s recent ruling that the continued detention of Turkish Workers’ Party (TİP) MP Can Atalay is a violation of the constitution.
In response to the Court of Cassation’s decision, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) held an extraordinary meeting, during which newly elected leader Özgür Özel announced their demand for a ‘justice session’ in Parliament.
Özel described the decision as a ‘blatant coup attempt’ and emphasised that the criminal complaint against members of the Constitutional Court was unfounded. He revealed that he had spoken to the AKP’s Numan Kurtulmuş, the speaker of parliament, to ask for a parliamentary consultative committee to be set up.
Kurdish politician, lawyer and co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Cahit Kırkazak, expressed his concern about the lack of impartial justice for marginalised people in the country. He highlighted the unusual situation in which those obliged to implement the decisions of the Constitutional Court are now filing criminal complaints against the court.
Kırkazak suggested that the members of the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation may have received assurances for their actions. He outlined two possible outcomes: either the Turkish government could use this as an excuse to accelerate the closure of the Constitutional Court, damaging the country’s legal credibility, or effective mechanisms could be legislated to ensure the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s decisions through social objections and protests.
Judicial bodies take action
Erinç Sağkan, president of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), announced that the TBB would file a complaint against the members of the Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation who filed a criminal complaint against members of the Constitutional Court. The aim of the complaint is to apply the sanction of “invitation to dismissal” for disregarding the Constitution.
Sağkan highlighted the attempt to de facto abolish the Constitutional Court and called for the protection of the rule of law and citizens’ rights against arbitrary practices. The TBB will hold an extraordinary meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue.
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, the rulings of the Constitutional Court are final, and the legislative, executive and administrative branches are obliged to comply with the Court’s rulings without modification or delay.