A March in the Night

The annual Feminist Night March in Istanbul has been the most cheerful, vivid and peaceful demonstration of Turkey’s civil society since 2003 – dspite the venue restrictions imposed by the government and the use of tear gas during the marches of 2019. Complementing the discussions on the endurance and containment of civic activism, the recent Gezi Park and Kavala cases are conducive for understanding the relationship between human rights defenders and autocratic legalism.

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Thailand’s Obsession with Clean Politics Dismantles its Democracy

On 21 February, the already fragile Thai democracy became even more vulnerable as the Constitutional Court dissolved the Future Forward Party, the third largest party and the most active opposition against the government of Prayuth Chan-ocha. This case is the latest in the series of judicial overreach in Thailand. The phenomenon is being fueled by the unhealthy obsession of building clean politics which yields an opposite result.

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Context Matters

On February 9th, the Armenian parliament authorized a referendum that would allow the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, to remove seven of the current nine justices from the Constitutional Court. Pashinyan has called the decisions of the Court a “threat to democracy”. On its face, this seems like yet another example of a populist leader trying to use a referendum to increase his power. Examining the context of the situation in Armenia, however, paints a different picture.

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The Turkish Judiciary’s Violations of Human Rights Guarantees

On 3 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in the case of Parmak & Bakir v Turkey that the Turkish judiciary’s interpretation of the offence of membership of an armed terrorist organization violated Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, being the absolute right to no punishment without law. Although the case deals with incidents from 2002, it shows how Turkey’s post-coup terrorism trials violate Turkey’s obligations under the ECHR.

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Judges Depending on Judges

Since the beginning of 2018 the CJEU has finally been putting flesh on the bones of the EU principle of judicial independence. Most recently, the Court has been widely praised for its ruling against the Polish attempt of removing the, presumably, disloyal judges by a general measure of lowering their retirement age from 70 to 65. While the decision is indeed praiseworthy, it is nevertheless necessary to emphasize its notable doctrinal lacuna with potential negative practical implications – particularly in those EU member states with a weak democratic and rule of law tradition, a low degree of legal and political culture as well as with a small and tightly-knit legal elite.

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New Challenges against the Judiciary in Romania

After a year 2018 dominated by conflicts between the President and the Government and marked by the adoption and entry into force of major changes of the judiciary legislation, the first part of 2019 brought new challenges to the rule of law in Romania, especially as regards the judiciary. All these changes aim at increasing the power of the executive over the prosecutorial part of the judiciary and at removing virtually all checks-and-balances in decision-making on the top prosecutorial offices.

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Bad Response to a Tragic Choice: the Case of Polish Council of the Judiciary

A few days ago, the courageous and intelligent Chief Justice of the Polish Supreme Court, Professor Małgorzata Gersdorf, announced that, after some agonizing due to important legal and moral dilemmas at stake, she decided after all to convene the first, inaugural meeting of the National Council of Judiciary. The meeting is to take place on 27 April. The decision was met with dismay on the part of some lawyers and relief on the part of others. Generally, however, it did not prompt any particularly strong responses on either side. But the decision is momentous, both in its practical consequences and as a matter of principle.

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Defamation of Justice – Propositions on how to evaluate public attacks against the Judiciary

Public debate is an essential element of a democratic society. While this debate should not spare the judiciary, public attacks against the judiciary of a critical intensity can be observed in several European countries. The most recent example originates from Poland, where, in September 2017, a campaign on bill boards and on the internet was launched in support of the controversial draft acts on judicial reform. The campaign portrays judges as a "privileged cast" and as being corrupt, criminal and incompetent. Having regard to these events, it should be borne in mind that attacks against the judiciary from members of the legislative and executive can pose real threats to judicial independence and the separation of powers. This post takes these considerations as the starting point for a general discussion on how to properly evaluate public criticism of the judiciary. We suggest a frame of reference which seeks to balance the right of free speech and the legitimate interest of the judiciary to not have its legitimacy and independence abridged by political actors. In this regard, we argue that the level of scrutiny must depend on where such criticism comes from.

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Defenceless Formalists: on Abuse of Law and the Weakness of the Polish Judiciary

Poland’s constitutional crisis is caused by the power of those who attack the rule of law, but also by the weakness of those who defend it. This weakness derives from courts taking a traditional formalist approach, excluding purposive and functional argumentation and leaving themselves prone to attack by the abuse of power through the other branches of government.

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