Situation in Turkey

SMMP’s communiqué: The arrest of Turkish judges and prosecutors: blaming the innocent

SMMP1.    We have followed the last moments of freedom of the Turkish colleagues (judges and public prosecutors, members of YARSAV) who, in wake of the failed military coup in Turkey – whose circumstances are still unclear – knew they could be arrested any minute as they were aware that their names were on the ‘list’ of perpetrators. A list, which includes journalists, members of civil society, jurists and politicians upsetting corruption. Does anyone remember similar purges in Europe, in 1933?

2.    We were tormented by the anguish caused by the final words of farewell to freedom and extremely frightened by the horror of the unknown future and, at the same time, hopes have been dashed, as we witnessed through their last e-mails the ordeal of leaving their small children to the powerless weeping mothers and in the care of family members. The moment their wives replaced them and wrote the messages we received, and screamed for help, was a distressing, heartbreaking and excruciating moment...

3.    All this is happening on the doorstep of an unrecognizable Europe where the separation of powers is regarded as one of the foundations of freedom, rights, democracy and rule of law.

4.    The independence of judges and public prosecutors in Turkey or anywhere else is an obstacle to totalitarianism as well as to the attempts to destroy democracy and the rule of law. It is a very high price to pay – it’s neither virtual nor rhetorical – and Turkish colleagues who have been arbitrarily arrested are already paying it. Order and security of those who want power at any price are used as a pretext for their arrest.

5.    Following the failed coup, 2745 Turkish magistrates were rapidly suspended from their duties. Nearly two hundred magistrates have been or are waiting to be arrested.

6.    The speed and careful orchestration with which the magistrates were arrested – immediately after the coup and as a result of an efficient identification of the “plotters” – suggest that it was a planned, premeditated or simply opportunistic act. And if we ought to interpret the facts, this is probably the true and precise coup undermining democracy and putting an end to the separation of powers in Turkey.

7.    On 21 August 2015 SMMP launched a manifesto to support Turkish colleagues due to the repeated attacks on the independence of the judiciary in Turkey. It did it as a founding member of MEDEL – Magistrats Européens pour la démocratie et les libertés, of which YARSAV is a member organization.

8.    The attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the intimidation of judges by means of swift cleansing operations erode the rule of law and the separation of powers, as well as weaken a democracy of minimum standards. As a consequence, Turkey is moving farther away from the European standards enshrined in the “Copenhagen criteria”. Criteria according to which the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law and human rights is the “sine qua non” condition of accession to a modern European democracy.

9.    SMMP expresses publicly its full support to the Turkish colleagues and salutes their courage and fighting spirit: two qualities necessary to resist the collapse of the rule of law as well as the attack aimed at intimidating them and undermining their personal and institutional dignity by supporting them in their fight, whatever the forms it may take.

10.    The international community and MEDEL – Magistrats Européens pour la démocratie et les libertés must repudiate the current state of affairs and step up to support the denunciation of the arbitrary treatment to which Turkish magistrates are being subjected. Therefore it is their duty to publicly denounce them, disseminate and report them to the relevant national and international bodies and all those who defend freedom and the democratic rule of law.

11.    ALARM bells sound over this situation and we urge all public prosecutors to join their voices and efforts to defend those principles and support our Turkish colleagues by calling on NGOs, judicial and political bodies, as well as on social networks to demand their immediate release. Today they are the visible victims in the fight for judicial independence. We cannot remain silent spectators. We will give ourselves no rest in this fight!

Lisbon, 17 July 2016
The SMMP’s Management Board.

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