Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Turkey: Controversial Courts to Be Abolished

(July 3, 2012) On June 27, 2012, it was reported that Turkey's ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is planning to propose reform of the court system, including abolition of the special authority courts now used to try coup and terrorism cases. The move has the support of the country's Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan. The courts in question have come under criticism for not being well controlled; hundreds of defendants have been made subject to long periods of detention without verdicts. (Sung Un Kim, Turkey to Abolish Controversial Special Courts: Report, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (June 27, 2012).)

The special courts were established in 2005 to replace the previously existing special security courts; they are used in cases of crimes against the constitutional order, organized crime, terror, and drug trafficking. (Ozge Ozbilgin, Turkey's AK Party Working to Scrap Special Courts, EURONEWS (June 27, 2012); Betul Akkaya Demirbas, Gov't Plan to Abolish Special Courts May Damage Democratic Achievements, TODAY'S ZAMAN (June 27, 2012).)

The use of these courts has been criticized as being a way to squash dissent. The current administration has sometimes been at odds with the country's military, which is considered to be more secular in outlook than the ruling party. The special courts have prosecuted cases allegedly involving anti-government plots, including plots among the officers of the military. (Ozge Ozbilgin, Plans to Scrap Turkey's Special Courts, DAWN.COM (June 28, 2012).)

The end of the special courts would have an impact on a number of trials. These trials have hundreds of defendants, some of whom are Kurdish militants and others of whom are facing charges of having links to coup plots. In the future, the cases these courts would have heard will be handled by regional courts. (Kim, supra.)

The abolition of these courts is likely not to be universally popular. Followers of the influential Turkish Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen view the special courts and the trials conducted in them as important tools to fight anti-democratic forces. (Turkey's AK Party Working to Scrap Special Courts, supra.)