Project : Enhancing the Role of the Supreme Judicial Authorities in Respect of European Standards
 
General information
Title Enhancing the Role of the Supreme Judicial Authorities in Respect of European Standards
Project area Turkey
Budget EUR 3 300 000
Funding 90.91% by the European Union, 5.23% by the Turkish Authorities, and 3.86% by the Council of Europe
Implementation Legal and Human Rights Capacity Building Department (LHRCB)
Duration 08/01/2010 - 08/07/2013 (42 months)
Website http://www.yargitay.gov.tr/abproje/eng/proje.php

Overall objective:
To contribute to enhancing the role of the higher judiciary in Turkey in initiating further changes in the normative framework and its implementation in line with the acquis, the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the provisions of the European Social Charter (ESC) and other European standards. The specific objective of the project is to enhance the respective roles of the Higher Courts (Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation and Council of State) and of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors as the superior judicial authorities in the accession process and in the adoption of European high judicial standards.

Expected result 1:
Greater awareness of the members of the beneficiary institutions of the EU institutions, their decision-making processes and the acquis, as well as of the implications of Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution, the ECHR, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the execution of its judgments, and the ESC.

Expected result 2:
Enhanced co-operation of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and of the Higher Courts (Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation and State Council) as superior judicial authorities with equivalent European institutions.

Outputs and results and possible follow up

The project started in January 2010. A launching conference was held on 24 February in Ankara to mark the beginning of the project, to inform the wider public and relevant stakeholders about it, and to ensure the visibility of the project. The high level participation of the beneficiaries and project stakeholders, including all the Presidents of the courts, the Ambassador of the EUD, the Head of the Central Finance and Contracts Unit of Turkey (CFCU), the Director of Co-operation of the Directorate General of Human Rights and Legal Affairs of the CoE demonstrated the high interest in the project. The current discussions on judicial reform in Turkey also attracted the attention of the media and the public, which resulted in an increased level of participation in the conference. This media coverage contributed positively to the visibility of the project: the speeches were broadcasted live by important national TV channels or on the news of the same day on the main TV channels and featured in the headlines of various national newspapers on the day following the conference.

During 2010, a total of 73 justices and members of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation and the Council of State, including the Presidents of the Court of Cassation and the Council of State were enabled to reinforce their skills and knowledge as regards European standards and their domestic application. They visited the CoE, ECtHR and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In particular, their capacity to develop the regulatory framework for developing the judicial system in Turkey, setting up new procedures, rules and regulations, as well as running new mechanisms on the basis of similar provisions, rules and regulations in the ECtHR and the ECJ was strengthened. The beneficiaries were also exposed to recent developments as regards important topics and cases relevant to Turkey, they attended a Grand Chamber hearing before the ECtHR, as well as met with the President of the ECtHR and its judges. Issues examined included the authority of the case law of the ECtHR, the right to life, prohibition of torture, fair trial, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscious and religion and the right to property. The knowledge of the highest judicial authorities was also strengthened as regards the development of lawyers’ profession and their role in the court proceedings.

The operational capacity, knowledge and skills of a total of 314 members, prosecutors and reporters from the High Courts legal professionals as regards the domestic application of European standards, including social and economic rights, was developed during series of round tables in Ankara. Their full access to human rights materials, including the case law of the ECtHR and standards developed under the ESC was provided in Turkish. These training materials were also disseminated among legal professionals in the country and they are also available in the project’s website (http://www.yargitay.gov.tr/abproje). They include: 1) 15 books and handbooks; 2) 35 key documents (conventions, decisions, recommendations and reports by the Committee of Ministers of the CoE, Venice Commission and CCJE etc.); 3) 45 presentations by the experts and judges who took part in the round tables.

The project succeeded in bringing the representatives of all supreme judicial authorities (Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation, Council of State, and the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors) together for the first time with judges and lawyers from the ECtHR. Critical issues concerning Turkey before the ECtHR were examined and discussed exhaustively, ways of preventing violations were identified and all the parties gained greater awareness of the points of view of their counterparts. The beneficiaries stated that as a result of the activities so far, they were considering revising their interpretation of the law on a number of points. In addition, social rights and the protection mechanisms have been accorded top priority in the agenda of the Turkish supreme judicial authorities. It remains to be seen when and how the judgments issued by them will reflect the acquired skills and knowledge.

In addition to the quantitative indicators mentioned above, the interest of the beneficiary courts was also evident and the results of evaluation of the training events showed a general satisfaction about the content, programme and experts chosen for the activities, during which the participants exchanged their knowledge and experience, contributing to the development of a close relationship between the Turkish supreme judicial authorities and the European institutions for a better protection of human rights at the national level.

The project team is planning an external evaluation of the project in mid-2011 to assess the impact of the activities with a view to taking appropriate measures to ensure that by the end of the project, the higher courts of Turkey effectively implement European human rights standards.