An old style balance symbol of justice

Flagship Projects in Justice : Supporting Criminal Justice Reform to protect Human Rights

SUPPORTING CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM IN TURKEY TO PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS

 

Turkey has been undergoing a large scale transformation by aligning its legal system further with the EU values and standards. A set of codes, such as the Turkish New Criminal and Criminal Procedures Codes, came into force in 2005 to ensure proper functioning of the criminal justice. They were followed by judicial reform packages. Procedural mechanisms, such as cross examination, interception of communication, witness protection, were updated.

The principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law are core values of the European Union. The success in criminal justice reform depends on the extent to which the rule of law is accepted and practiced by all actors in the justice system. This cannot be achieved through legislative reform alone; it needs further measures to ensure proper implementation. To achieve this, the EU supports improving the efficiency of the Turkish Criminal Justice System in line with European Standards and enhancing the human rights practices within the system.

One of the most important actions in this field was an EU funded project on improving the efficiency of the Turkish Criminal Justice System under IPA's 2009 programme. With this €3,9 million project (€3.2 million EU contribution) jointly implemented with the Council of Europe, the Ministry of Justice, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the Justice Academy, the Union of Bar Associations and the law enforcement authorities, over 2.500 key actors in the criminal justice system in Turkey improved their understanding, knowledge of and respect for human rights.

Within the scope of the project, experts produced a comprehensive needs assessment report, analysing the situation in the field of criminal justice. The report highlighted shortcomings and identified areas that require further improvement for the effective functioning of the criminal justice system in Turkey. Some legislative changes have already taken place in line with the findings of the report. The training curricula of the Turkish Justice Academy was developed, adding 10 training modules that cover 18 subtopics for the pre- and in- service training of judges and prosecutors. The human rights perspective has been embedded in all topics, with relevant references to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and National High Courts’ judgments. In parallel, a pool of more than 300 trainers was established with the aim of increasing the training capacity of the Academy. Through study visits and placements, there has been a significant progress in increasing the capacity of more than 100 judicial professionals by establishing the relations and co-operation with their European counterparts. A draft law on international judicial cooperation in criminal matters was also prepared to respond to increased need of cooperation with the EU Member States. And last but not least, the capacity of practicing lawyers to play an active role in the system was strengthened through handbooks on defence ethics, cross-examination, legal aid, defence strategy and motion practice. These handbooks were introduced to more than 1.200 lawyers through 10 regional seminars, and disseminated to all local bar associations in Turkey.

The EU will follow up these actions with two new projects to address further improvement of the capacity of public prosecution offices in criminal investigations and of justice professionals on prevention of ECHR violations in Turkey.