Think Twice before Speaking of Constitutional Review in Turkey

German journalist Deniz Yücel has been freed from the Turkish prison he was held captive for a year. That the partial undoing of an unjust judicial decision had nothing to do with human rights, and everything to do with “diplomacy” – as Gabriel admitted – became all the more evident a few hours later. While one court in Istanbul released Yücel, another sentenced seven Turkish journalists to aggravated life in prison on charges of involvement in the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016. In addition to being the first conviction of journalists in relation to the putsch attempt, the ruling is also remarkable due to its implications for Turkey’s constitutional regime.

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Is the Turkish Constitutional Complaint System on the Verge of a Crisis?

Last week, the Turkish Constitutional Court delivered two decisions on the constitutional complaints of two journalists, finding their detention to be unconstitutional. The Courts of Assize declared the decisions as void because of “usurpation of competence” and refused to enact them. A constitutional crisis seems to be deepening – at least in the short term.

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Will Legalism be the End of Constitutionalism in Turkey?

On 11 January 2018, Turkish constitutionalism entered a new phase of decay. This phase was not triggered by criticism of its judgments by the government nor by the retreat of constitutional protections by the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) nor by constitutional court packing as seen in Hungary or Poland. Instead, first instance courts became the newest actors to challenge the authority of the country’s constitution and how it is interpreted by the TCC. The new rebels against Turkish constitutionalism are ordinary judges.

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The Turkish Constitutional Court under the Amended Turkish Constitution

In March 2016, the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) ruled that the rights of the Turkish journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül had been violated, leading to their release from prison after three months. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by criticizing the TCC sharply, questioning its existence and legitimacy. This had not been the first time over the last years, that the Court had been attacked. The constitutional amendments, that will be put to referendum in April 2017, seemed to be a golden opportunity to change the composition and cut back the broad competences of the TCC. Did the AKP-led Parliamentary Constitutional Committee seize this opportunity?

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Mercan v. Turkey: Waiting for the Last Word of the Turkish Constitutional Court

For the time being, the fallout of the attempted coup d’ètat of July 15th 2016 in Turkey will not reach Strasbourg. Victims of alleged human rights violations first have to exhaust domestic remedies before they can apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). This is the result of Mercan v. Turkey, the first of more than 3000 applications regarding alleged violations after the attempted coup and the declaration of a state of emergency. The Strasbourg court views the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) not as per se incapable of adjudicating in these cases in an effective way. If the TCC can live up to these expectations remains to be seen.

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