Complying with the decisions of the Constitutional Court is a constitutional obligation, said Zühtü Arslan, President of the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM), at a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday.
Arslan’s comments come amid a recent judicial crisis and ongoing debate in Turkey over an AYM ruling on the detention of imprisoned opposition MP Can Atalay.
The AYM had twice ruled that the rights of Atalay, who was elected to parliament in May from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) and was kept in prison despite being granted parliamentary immunity, had been violated by his continued imprisonment. However, insisting that the AYM’s decision had “no legal value”, the Court of Cassation twice rejected the AYM’s decision.
Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony of a new member of the court, Arslan addressed the issue and emphasised the importance of upholding the court’s decisions.
“According to the judicial decisions that have been finalised through appeals and according to the decision and interpretation of the Constitutional Court, there is no legal basis for not following the decisions of the Constitutional Court due to differences of opinion,” Arslan said.
He went on to emphasise that the crucial aspect of ensuring the effectiveness of individual applications is the correction of violations. “Therefore, the Constitutional Court must not only determine the violation, but also show how the violation will be corrected and its consequences eliminated. This is an obligation imposed on the Constitutional Court by law.”
While acknowledging possible disagreements with the AYM’s decisions and interpretations of constitutional provisions, Arslan underlined the constitutional obligation to comply with these decisions in a democratic state governed by the rule of law.
“In a state of law, even if we do not agree with these decisions, it is a constitutional obligation to abide by them,” Arslan concluded.
Erdoğan, who left without giving a speech, had supported the Court of Cassation’s defiance against the AYM, saying “the Constitutional Court has made a series of mistakes that are seriously worrying”.
Atalay was jailed for 18 years for his role in the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which began as a small sit-in by urban activists to defend one of the last parks in the heart of Istanbul and snowballed into massive anti-government protests, with around four million people taking to the streets over several months of demonstrations.
Several other MPs have been released from detention after elections over the years, with the AYM itself setting a precedent. However, the Court of Cassation cited an exception in the constitution for activities that target the ‘indivisible unity of the state’, as government officials referred to the Gezi Park protests.
According to the AYM ruling, Atalay was entitled to a retrial. However, the Court of Cassation’s decision to overturn the AYM’s decision on Atalay ultimately led to the MP being stripped of his parliamentary status.