The basis of the estate in trouble

In all courtrooms in this country, you can see the following inscription on the wall behind the judge’s chair: “Justice is the basis of the estate.” Here, “estate” means “country.” 

 
In Turkey, justice has long lost its characteristic as “the basis of the estate.” The tragic bit is that it is the members of the judiciary who have shaken this basis.
Who is authorized to investigate or try the Erzincan chief prosecutor? Is the chief prosecutor of the closest province or the Supreme Court of Appeals entitled to follow up on this matter?

There may be practical meanings or consequences to these questions, but the matter goes much deeper than it seems.

Members of the judiciary should not be offended by us, but we don’t think that the legal profession is a meaningful job.

Political science, the history of modernization, the relations between society and politics, etc., are much more serious and meaningful topics.

Why?

Because there is the tragic modernization process of this country that lies at the heart of all fundamental debates in Turkey. All current debates that appear to be “legal” will reveal themselves to be “political” upon closer examination. We have lived through such a distorted adventure of modernization that concepts like “rule of law” and “universal principles of law” cannot find room for themselves amid the ongoing chaos.

Thus “law,” which is supposed to act as an adjudicator in all political conflicts or tensions, soon became a side or tool of those conflicts.

A majority of the members of the judiciary issue decisions not based on facts or principles, but depending on the people involved.

One of the striking examples of this was seen during the presidential election. The top judges who ruled that Abdullah Gül could not be elected as president based their decision on “law.” But under the same “law,” many previous presidents had been elected. And Gül was able to become president only after the elections of July 22 changed the political balances.

According to the “book,” the Constitutional Court cannot review the essence of constitutional amendments, but it did and it annulled them. They did it by looking everyone in the eye.

They said that they relied on the “law” while doing so. But everyone knew what they actually relied on.

Where is the law? Which law?

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors’ (HSYK) decision to strip the Erzurum chief public prosecutor of his powers is a new example of such distortions.

This decision effectively maimed the investigation that was being conducted in Erzincan -- and was left unfinished -- and the Erzurum prosecutor’s probe into the Erzincan chief prosecutor. After this stage, who will believe that the process is going on “naturally”?

The basic value that ensured that the Ottoman Empire survived for several centuries was justice. It is disheartening to see the progress we have made as the generations who inherited the state tradition of regarding justice as the basis of the country.

We are in a pitiful situation.

We want to believe in Erzincan Chief Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner and Erzurum prosecutor Osman Şanal, not because they are representatives of a particular ideology, but because they are the first-class prosecutors of the state. But do we really believe? No.

Do we have trust in the top judges in Ankara? Can we accept the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals as indisputable judicial decisions that we must accept whether or not we like them? No, absolutely not. We search for a trap even in the decisions that are in line with our political views.

Consciences are long wounded. The media’s being “pro-something” is a matter of democracy, and it can be overcome. But justice being “pro-something” is a matter of everything with whomever it sides. 
 
20 February 2010, Saturday 
GÜRKAN ZENGİN

OPINION