The Turkish Grand National Assembly ("TGNA") has passed the first package of a series of legal reforms as part of an overall strategy to strengthen Turkey's judicial system and the principle of the rule of law.
This first phase of this reform strategy included the passage of thirty-nine (39) articles and amendments to fifteen (15) statutes in the areas of freedom of the press, travel rights for lawyers and judicial effectiveness.
Among many amendments, most importantly, the reform strategy brings about the following changes:
Freedom of the press
A statement of opinion will no longer be regarded as a crime if it falls within the scope of journalism and criticism.
Decisions by Regional Courts of Justice regarding crimes related to freedom of expression (e.g. defamation, publishing notices or making statements encouraging illegal acts) will be appealable before the Court of Appeal. This amendment will be applicable to the final verdicts of Regional Courts of Justice if applied for within fifteen (15) days of the law's promulgation.
Regarding net freedom, access blocks will be imposed on URLs only rather than on entire websites.
Green passports for attorneys
Previously, Turkish attorneys were not eligible for green passports, which allow for visa-free access to Schengen countries. Now, however, green passports will be issued for attorneys registered with Turkish bars who have fifteen (15) years seniority and have not been subject to prosecution regarding terror-related crimes.
Law school graduates who apply for an internship at a law firm or at a notary public will have to pass a bar admission test.
The detention period for crimes unlikely to result in a hefty penalty will not surpass six (6) months. For more severe offences, the detention period will not be longer than one year.
Accelerated and simple trial procedures will be applicable for certain minor criminal offences similar to plea bargaining.
In the accelerated trial procedure, the public prosecutor is authorised to propose the accelerated procedure to a defendant. If he accepts in the presence of an attorney, the public prosecutor can impose a 50% reduced punishment.
In the simple trial procedure, all claims and replies for crimes requiring imprisonment of less than two years must be submitted within fifteen (15) days. The court will then be authorised to render a decision with a summary trial.
In child abuse cases, the testimony of children who have been victims of abuse will only be taken by experts specialising in the treatment and care of abused children.
We are expecting TGNA to pass the second judicial reform package soon, which would introduce further improvements to the Turkish legal system.
For more information on Turkey's judicial reforms, contact your regular CMS source or local CMS experts Dr. Döne Yalçın or Arcan Kemahlı.