Turkey’s Council of State, which is the high court for cases related to administrative law, has a long history, beginning in the Ottoman era. Since its establishment in 1868 during the time of Sultan Abdulaziz, the Council of State has been the highest administrative court of Turkey, responsible for maintaining the rule of law and ensuring that the government’s actions and operations are consistent with the law.
For many years, the Council of State was the assurance of the rule of law and it was the final voice on any illegal actions of the government. However, the Council of State has deemed that its own decisions are non-binding for the body itself. According to the daily Radikal, the presidency of the Council of State declared that the legal personality of Council of State is not bound by the division’s decisions.
The story is quite interesting: Turkey’s first judges’ union was established in 2011. The governor of Ankara applied to the Ankara Labor Court and wanted a decision regarding the rule in the Public Servants’ Syndicate Law stating that members of the judiciary cannot belong to any union. The labor court ordered the closure of the union in July 2011. After that, judges formed another union, the Judges’ Syndicate, in 2012, but the Ministry of Labor did not give the code required for the syndicate to be registered.
The Judges’ Syndicate filed an administrative case regarding these acts of the ministry, and the Ankara Administrative Court ordered in April 2014 that judges may establish a union. The Council of State’s 10th Division approved this decision in December 2014.
The union applied to the Presidency of the Council of State and asked for union dues to be deducted from the salaries of members of the court who were members of the syndicate and that it be sent to the syndicate’s account. On March 17, 2015, the Council of State sent an answer mentioning that “judges are not permitted to establish a union and cannot become a member.” The syndicate applied again on the basis of the decision of Council of State’s 10th Division and mentioned that the presidency of the council must also abide by the decisions of the Council of State. The second answer was a rejection with the same reasoning.
Now the Judges’ Syndicate is filing another case with the Ankara Administrative Court against the Council of State. The president of the Judges’ Syndicate, Mustafa Karadağ, said that “the judge’s robe doesn’t have a button to close it, but the Council of State fastened their robes for the government because the government doesn’t want a judges’ union.”
Is it surprising to see that the Council of State is trying to be seen as in alignment with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government after the detentions of several judges and prosecutors? Not at all! Is it in accordance with the rule of law, individual rights and liberties and freedom of association? Of course not! We will see what will happen next, but the council’s fear of the government will surely be remembered.
Voting is going on today as I write this article, and I hope we wake up to a brighter morning full of hope and justice. American politician Lamar S. Smith said, “Judicial abuse occurs when judges substitute their own political views for the law.” This is exactly what we see today in Turkey.