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Cablegate: Constitutional Court President Discusses Judicial

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 006300

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL TU OSCE
SUBJECT: CONSTITUTIONAL COURT PRESIDENT DISCUSSES JUDICIAL

REFORM, SECULARISM WITH CDA

1. (U) Summary: Tulay Tugcu, newly elected president of
Turkey's Constitutional Court, told Charge during an October
7 meeting that she is proposing a constitutional amendment
that would allow individual citizens to apply directly to the
Court. Tugcu defended the headscarf ban in universities as a
necessary measure to resist "pressure" from Turkish Muslims
who want to break down the barrier between religion and
state. End Summary.

---------------------------
Tugcu Proposes Court Reform
---------------------------

2. (U) Tugcu told Charge that during her term as court
president, which will end in 2007 when she turns 65 and will
be required to retire, she will advocate a constitutional
reform that would enable Turkish citizens to apply directly
to have their cases reviewed by the Constitutional Court.
Currently, only lower courts can direct cases to the
Constitutional Court. Allowing individuals to apply directly
-- as U.S. citizens can apply to the Supreme Court -- would
reduce the number of applications from Turkey to the European
Court of Human Rights, and enable Turkey to resolve more
cases within its own system, she said.

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3. (U) In order to handle the extra caseload, Tugcu said, the
Constitutional Court would have to be divided into two
panels. Currently, there are 11 sitting justices and four
alternates. The alternates could be made full judges,
allowing for the establishment of two separate panels. The
full court could meet for certain types of cases, such as
those involving the potential closing of political parties.

4. (U) Tugcu noted that the ruling AK Party (AKP) has
proposed increasing the number of Constitutional Court judges
to 21, including seven who would be elected by Parliament.
Currently, the national president appoints all Constitutional
Court members, the majority of whom are chosen from among
candidates nominated by other high courts and the Higher
Education Council. Tugcu said Constitutional Court members
oppose the AKP plan, which they believe would politicize the
court, but have been restrained in their comments because
they recognize that many countries do elect high court
members.

5. (SBU) The CDA said she realizes that many Turkish judges
are angry about the proposal for electing court members. But
the idea of electing judges is accepted in many countries
around the world. The question is how to conduct the
elections in order to ensure that the best people are
selected. Tugcu said part of the answer is to establish
required qualifications for candidates. The quality of the
court would suffer if political parties elected as judges
party members who failed to get elected to Parliament. Tugcu
said PM Erdogan and Justice Minister Cicek have assured Court
members that they will consider justices' views on the issue.

--------------------------------------
Headscarf Ban a Response to "Pressure"
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Charge asked Tugcu to describe the court's role in
the area of religious freedom. Tugcu averred that under
Turkish secularism, everyone is free to believe that they
want. However, if you represent the state, you cannot use
your office to display religious symbols or engage in
religious expression. For example, if PM Erdogan became
president, there would be no problem with his wife, Emine,
wearing an Islamic headscarf at home in the presidential
palace. But she would not be permitted to wear it while she
is representing the state.

7. (U) In a university environment, Tugcu continued, where
young people study and socialize in close proximity, the use
of the Islamic headcovering creates religious conflict. When
students return home they can wear what they please. Tugcu
noted that she has a daughter living in the U.S., and she
understands that the U.S. practice is different. However, in
the U.S., she said, the state does not face the same pressure
from the religious community that the Turkish state must
confront. In the U.S., the religious community is not driven
by its beliefs to try to impose its will on the state. In
Turkey, by contrast, the dominant religion of Islam has
"certain rules" that compel many pious Turks to try to break
down the barrier between religion and state. The headscarf
ban, unnecessary in the U.S., is part of the Turkish state's
efforts to resist this pressure.


MCELDOWNEY

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