The NGOs also called on the government to put a plan to open regional appellate courts into effect. For the past few weeks Turkey has been debating plans for judicial reform, which include opening new chambers in the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State to lighten the workload as well as overhaul other high courts. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government thinks this move will make the judiciary more independent and impartial. Reform opponents, however, believe the government is seeking to seize control of the judiciary. Public Jurists Association President Hacı Mehmet Gani told reporters that legal experts are surprised to see the heads of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State opposed to the opening of new chambers in their courts despite having previously complained about the workload at their courts. Gani said the opening of new chambers in the two courts may not be sufficient to overcome all problems within the judiciary, but he believes that it stands as a major step to get rid of the backlog at the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State.
“The judicial reform should be implemented in no time,” he stated.
Gani also said the recent release of suspects from prison after a new law that introduced limits to prison terms went into effect highlighted once more the urgency of judicial reform. Many suspects, including Hizbullah members who were convicted of brutally killing 188 people, were released from prison last month in line with a law that limits the period during which an individual awaiting a first-instance or appeals case verdict can be incarcerated to a maximum of 10 years.
Yozgat Bar Association President Yusuf Başer also appealed to the government and asked the authorities to implement the judicial reform without losing time so that the people would not lose their confidence in justice. “The nation wants justice. However, tens of thousands of case files are pending at the Supreme Court of Appeals. Citizens should not lose confidence in justice. For this reason, regional appellate courts should be opened as well as new chambers of the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Council of State,” he said.
Gökhan Maraş, president of the Kırşehir Bar Association, agreed and defined case files pending examination at the Supreme Court of Appeals as a “bleeding wound.” He also suggested at least 10 new chambers should be opened at the court, instead of the six planned by the government.
“The Supreme Court of Appeals should immediately finalize the appeals process of pending case files. For this, the planned chambers should start working soon,” noted Turgay Balaban, head of the Judicial Viewpoint Association.