The Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ said: "In the recent days, Türkiye’s attitude towards Finland and Sweden, who applied for NATO membership, is being discussed. There are no problems and issues regarding the attitude of Türkiye. Türkiye adopted the right attitude."
The Minister Bozdağ, who participated in the Assembly Meeting of the Union of Municipalities of Türkiye (TBB), provided information concerning judicial reforms. Reminding that military judiciary was abolished and Military Court of Cassation, Military Administrative High Court, State Security Courts, and specially authorised high criminal courts were closed, Bozdağ stated that steps which ensure unity within the judiciary were taken.
NEW COURTS ARE TO BE ESTABLISHED IN 7 PROVINCES
Bozdağ, who explained the decision taken in relation to the courts which are to be newly established, shared the information that “We will take steps to establish new courts in the new period. I just signed yesterday; we are now establishing new administrative courts in Ağrı, Kars, Bingöl and Kırklareli. In addition, we are establishing regional courts of appeal in Tekirdağ, Malatya and Denizli.”
The Minister Bozdağ, reminding that the municipalities have also a duty to carry out inspections, underlined that this duty should not be disregarded. Bozdağ, who expressed that they were working on a new legal amendment in relation to stockpiling and affecting prices, noted that the lower and upper limits of penalties for stockpiling and affecting prices would be increased.
Reminding the news concerning the fact that dogs with owners or stray dogs attacked people recently and caused suffering an injury by some children, young people and the elderly, the Minister Bozdağ notified that serious legal regulations were made in order to protect the rights of animals and the municipalities were burdened with serious liabilities at this point.
Some parts of the speech delivered by the Minister Bozdağ are as follows:
DEMOCRACY STARTS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
Democracy starts at the local level; we always say that. Nonetheless, a way to strengthen democracy starting at the local level is to trust the local administrations, to believe in them, to give them authority and duties, and to stand behind them as a mountain on this issue.
The old Municipality Law, numbered 1580, if I am not wrong, which was applied since the year 1930 in Türkiye, was applied for a total of 74 years. Governments and the parliament opted for amending some of the articles of this law from time to time; however, important amendments were, unfortunately, not made which give a meaning of democratising this law, strengthening mayors and municipal councils elected by the national will of the local people, and believing in them and standing behind them. The municipalities were formidable, the mayors were avoided, municipal councils were places where an approval signature by the governor or the district governor were sought if they were mistaken, and there were municipalities which did not have the authority to directly make correspondence with the public institutions and organisations.
Now, I ask. Municipal council prepares the budget of the municipality mayor, right? If the budget of final accounts is not approved by the district governor in districts and by the governor in the provinces, then it will be of no value. How much power a mayor can have if s/he does not and cannot approve its own budget, if the law does not allow this? The municipal council takes decisions and they are subject to the approval of the district governor in districts and the governor in the provinces. Does this municipal council have a structure which is democratic, strong, reflecting the will of the people, and peremptory; yes, it does. You have a conflict with the governor or the district governor; then there are zero decisions of the municipal council. Besides, when our mayors and municipalities wanted to make correspondence with the public institutions and organisations, it was through the district governor in districts and the governor in the provinces. In other words, the state, the laws in those times, and the governments in those times did not even grant the right to make direct correspondence to the mayors and did not trust them. “What would happen to us if we made a correspondence without the control of the governor or the control of the district governor”; the law closed the doors in this issue and did not grant authority to the mayors. We are the ones who realised the understanding which changed all these, strengthened municipal councils, gave a stronger and more powerful structure to municipalities of places which are almost metropolitan cities by enacting the Law on Metropolitan Cities, and which both expanded the legal duties and authorities of mayors in provinces, districts and towns, and trusted and believed in them towards democratisation and a state of law via the Municipal Law entered into force in 2005.
Of course, the opportunities of our municipalities were also not good. You ask why; we came to power in 2002. I never forget. When we take a look at the figures of those times to see what are the numbers, we can see that a total of 4.7 million TL was transferred to all the municipalities of Türkiye. Twenty years have passed since then and the final figure relating to the year 2020 is 95 billion TL, and this is only the share transferred from the budget of the uniform taxes. 4.7 million TL versus 95 billion TL. We ensured an increase more than approximately twenty fold for the income of the municipalities.
IF YOU ARE ENSHRINED IN HEARTS, YOU WILL NOT COLLAPSE
Politics and life teaches many things to all of us. If we accept the experiences we obtained as if they were a teacher and if we make the things it teaches our guide, then, I am sure that our achievements will increase even more. There is an important thing taught to us by the politics as far as I see and particularly the experiences in local governments. Providing service is a must to be successful but it is not enough because we know many examples where mayors who realised big projects, solved problems which were said to be unsolvable in the province or the district, and took many steps lost the first election they took part in, unfortunately. It means that realising huge projects solely does not bring winning elections. I’d like to express that there is also a huge need for other steps which will crown the existing and adequate achievement.
The biggest project for a mayor, for a politician is the project of winning the hearts of the people who elect himself and entering their hearts. If you succeeded in, during the period of your duties, entering the hearts of your electors, people who support you with their prayers or of those who do not vote for you, then there will be no force preventing you from winning the elections. If you are enshrined in hearts, you will not collapse. The main reason why our President stands still in the hearts of the people for 20 years in Türkiye is that he is enshrined in the heart of the nation. This is also the same for the mayors and this is the same for all those who are elected. If we achieve this, there will be no elections that we cannot win and there will be no projects that we cannot realise. I hope that all our mayors mobilise their all efforts for winning hearts the same as they do in works of infrastructure and superstructure because this is the way, and success is on that way and winning is on that way. As said by Yunus Emre, “If you reached pilgrimage a thousand times, if you prayed for atonement for a thousand times, and if you broke heart for one time, then it is in vain even if you rush from pillar to post”, go and come as many times as you want. Those who broke hearts will not easily become a mayor for a second time. Those who build hearts will not easily lose.
THE WAY TO PROTECT THE RIGHT TO LIFE OF OUR PEOPLE COVERS THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE OF STRAY ANIMALS
As far as we can follow up from the media recently, we see that dogs with owners or stray dogs attacked people and caused suffering an injury, disability by some children, young people and the elderly and death for some people, though the number is quite low. We made serious legal regulations concerning animal rights. At this point, we encumbered serious duties upon our municipalities. The way to protect the right to life of our people covers the protection of the right to life of stray animals. If we do not provide protection for stray animals and do not provide them with a safe environment for living, and if we shut our eyes to the fact that they are roaming freely on streets and do not take measures and do not ensure that they are living in a safe environment, then each one of us has a moral responsibility for ever injured child, young person or every people of ours. Therefore, there is a great advantage in acting with the awareness that our duty is to ensure that these animals live in safe environments in order to protect the peace, happiness and right to life of our people instead of seeing this issue as a drudgery work burdened to municipalities by the government. It appears that there are more than 8 million stray animals in Türkiye. Then, it is our municipalities who will take them under control, carry out checks for them, treat them, feed them, and create a safe environment for them. I appreciate your efforts within this framework. However, it is clearly seen that these efforts are not adequate. That is why, there is a need for more efforts, more work, and more investments in this area. I’d like to underline that we need to see the investments made in this area as highly important investments as with other investments.
WE BRING A NEW REGULATION WHICH WILL INCREASE THE LOWER AND UPPER LIMIT OF PENALTIES IN THE ARTICLE OF LAW GOVERNING THE ISSUE OF STOCKPILING
When we carry out our inspection duties without any deficiencies and on time, we pave the way for the local people, whose mayor is us, to enjoy any kind of work in a safer manner and enjoy any kind of food and opportunity in a safer way. When we neglect our inspection duties, we lead them to make use of unsafe food and unsafe places, which, undoubtedly, will bear consequences for all of us. In the new period, there is currently a work carried out by the Group of AK Party in the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye. On the occasion of this work, to which our Ministry also provides support, I’d like to express once more that we bring a new regulation which will increase the lower and upper limit of penalties in Article 237 of the Criminal Code of Türkiye governing affecting prices and in Article 240 governing stockpiling. Accordingly, the penalty to be imposed for those who spread unfounded news, spread rumour, and use fraudulent ways in order to increase labour wages or values of food or property shall be increased from 3 months up to 3 years. Previously, the penalty was from 3 months to 2 years but now, the lower limit is increased to 1 year and the upper limit is increased to 3 years. If labour wages, values of food or property increases as a result of this propaganda, manipulation, and fraudulent actions, then the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one half. If this offence is committed by brokers and middlemen, or by official duty-holders, then the penalty, which is already increased by one half, shall be increased by one half for a second time.
THIS WILL PLAY A HIGHLY IMPORTANT ROLE IN COMBATTING THOSE WHO OBTAIN UNJUST GAIN BY WAY OF WORKS CARRIED OUT WITH ILL WILL
We also increase penalties for those who make effort on streets to both increase expensiveness in the country and stockpile goods by not selling them and making their calculations accordingly with the idea that “there should be a deficiency in goods so that we can sell the goods at a higher price” for goods and services provided to the public and for food. You ask, what does this bring? It brings this. First, increasing the lower limit and the upper limit makes the offences of stockpiling and affecting prices offences where arrest is possible because, in the current situation, arrest is prohibited for these offences. Therefore, during such an investigation and prosecution, the judge or the court can render a precautionary decision of detention during the judicial proceedings against the people who committed these offences, if the judge or the court sees the existence of the conditions and uses discretion in that meaning. Increasing the penalty and bringing the opportunity to render a decision of precaution of detention will play a highly important role in combatting those who obtain unjust gain by way of works carried out with ill will. Of course, there is and there will be the fight of our government against this issue. The fight is ongoing. Measures that will protect our citizens in a more effective and efficient manner is being taken step by step. This regulation is one of those measures. At this point, I’d like to state once more that following measures will be coming.
CRITICISING A DECISION IS ONE THING AND CRITICISING THE JUDGE AND THE COURT IS ANOTHER
Strengthening our country in terms of a state of law means that we strengthen our country in all areas. If trust to judiciary and trust to justice is at a high level in this country, then both the investment environment and all our works become better. The whole word is allied on this idea. However, if we leave the work only to the decision of courts or decision of prosecution offices in this issue, then we will never be able to ensure this trust. At this point, mayors should be fair in their administration, the management should be fair in their management, every manager and every member of family and every householder should be fair and justice should be everywhere: justice in schools, justice in municipalities, justice in public institutions and organisations… Of course, there are important duties of the municipalities in seeing all these as a whole and, within this scope, enhancing trust of people to justice. Unfortunately, when the judiciary renders a decision in our Türkiye, today, the decisions of the judiciary are evaluated according to partiality and if the decision is in line with my partiality, we praise the judge to the skies. If the decision is not in line with my partiality, we rip the judge to bits. We make every criticism and defamation we can make. This is not right. Criticising a decision is one thing and criticising the judge and the court is another. Decisions are not sacred documents which cannot be criticised. They can be criticised and their rights and wrongs can be discussed and debated, everything can be done. This is natural and a requisite of democracy and a state of law. However, to whom are we going to trust when we make speeches which are forged with humiliation, insult and even use of heavy swears against those who render decisions? What is justice? Is it the one said by the Party A or the one said by Party B or the one said by the Party C? That is why, there is a need for courts. When everybody disputes with everybody, the dispute in question is addressed in a court, and judges determine what is just in terms of the dispute in question with their personal conviction and in line with the Constitution, legislation and the law and gives the justice to its owner. This dispute becomes effective immediately and does this. Then, what you say stays on one side, what I say stays on the other side and what another says stays on another side. Whatever the decision rendered, we do not like it and criticise it. Nonetheless, we always obeyed the decisions and will continue to do so. It is not in question in terms of the government not to obey the court decisions in Türkiye until today. In fact, there are sanctions for disobedience in our law. We are facing a dirty perception operation as if all the decisions which are obeyed are not obeyed in Türkiye and as if the decisions are not applied.
We have taken great steps in the democratisation of Türkiye. We made great amendments to our Constitution. For instance, there were situations where remedies were closed in Türkiye. How? It was not possible to seek judicial remedy against the decisions of Supreme Military Council (YAŞ). People was to say “An injustice was done against me” but the Constitution said that you could not say that an injustice had been done to you. You were not able to appeal to the judiciary. Similarly, according to our Constitution, the Assembly said that a legal regulation that would repeal the opportunity of appeal of civil servants against penalties of warning and reprimand and it was done. The person who was punished did not have the right to say that “An injustice was done to me; this punishment is not fair”. There was provisional article 15 which prevents the prosecution of coup plotters of 12 September. The country had gone through these. You were to go for appeal but the Constitution said “You cannot take this matter to the judiciary”. For this reason, we first eliminated the barriers standing in front of remedies one by one. We deleted the barriers in our Constitution one by one concerning the penalties of warning and reprimand, YAŞ decision, decision of Council of Judges and Prosecutors, and barriers standing in front of the prosecution of coup plotters. We opened the ways wide to seek justice and the ways of prosecution. This is a huge democratisation. This is a huge improvement in Türkiye. It was not easy to talk about abolishing provisional article 15 before us but we abolished it and corrected it.
WE TOOK STEPS WHICH ENSURE UNITY WITHIN THE JUDICIARY
We brought to our law new democratic steps which increase the number of ways of seeking one’s rights and steps which are the requisite of a state of law. We put the right to information into our Constitution and thereby, we granted each citizen of ours the right to obtain information about themselves and about the public. We brought the right to have access to any kind of information upon their request thanks to the right to information. It is not certain where our personal data are. Nobody knew who owned how much of it, how this was handled, and if there was a protection or not. We included the protection of personal data in our Constitution. We gave our every citizen the right to access data concerning themselves held by the state, to complete the data accessed if it is deficient, to delete the data if it is incorrect, and to examine if the data is used in line with the purposes. Unfortunately, we were not able to explain these rights we gave to our citizens and we established an independent board named Personal Data Protection Board. We realised an important regulation which establishes and implements a follow up system for violations and protects any kind of data of our citizens in line with a state of law in the event that there are violations of law in the protection of such data. We established the Ombudsman Institution in order to examine the complaints concerning the functioning of the administration. This is a separate way of inspection. Obtaining information is a way of inspection, the Ombudsman is a way of inspection, and the right to make access to personal data is another way of inspection. Most importantly, we introduced individual applications to our Constitutional Court and thus, we crowned the ways of inspecting the whole administration. With the introduction of individual application to our Constitutional Court, we virtually converted it into a local court of human rights in Türkiye. That’s why, we say that we took important steps. These are the revolutions which we can’t call silent revolutions. This was what we said in the past but now, these are being implemented, they have voice now. Everybody embraces them.
We ensured that international agreements to which Türkiye is a party shall prevail in the case of a conflict between international agreements concerning human rights and our laws, found in Article 90 of our Constitution. We took a step which ensure their direct application. These were not present before us. Did they attempt to do it and were there someone who tried to prevent them? Nobody had the courage to talk about these, let alone doing them.
We took steps which ensure unity within the judiciary. A state is one; as said by our President: “one nation, one state, one country, one flag.” In this unity, the judiciary would be one, as well but there was military judiciary first, and second there was Military Court of Cassation, and third, there was high military administrative court in Türkiye previously. We have our Council of State now and it corresponds to a high military administrative court. We have our Court of Cassation and we have our civil judiciary. Are we two states? We are one state. The judiciary will be one and the laws will be one and there might be private laws but we took steps which ensure unity within the judiciary and we fully abolished high military administrative court, military judiciary, Military Court of Cassation. This is a huge reform. We abolished state security courts, specially authorised high criminal courts, specially authorised courts which were established in line with Article 10 of the Anti-Terror Law and put an end to their proceedings which were conducted with privileged procedures and we realised a huge normalisation.
FOR EVERYONE, THE LEGISLATION IS EQUAL, THE LAW IS EQUAL, THE JUDICIARY IS EQUAL
When you talked about abolishing State Security Courts, a prosecutor’s office would immediately commence proceedings against you. But now, thank god, there are neither state security court nor specially authorised court or prosecutor’s offices, nor courts established in line with Article 10 of the Anti-Terror Law, nor a privileged procedure of proceedings in Türkiye. For everyone, the legislation is equal, the law is equal, the judiciary is equal. We took steps which realised this one by one. Of course, on the other hand, there were serious problems within the judiciary. On the one hand there was a lack of judges and prosecutors, and on the other hand, there is a lack of judicial staff, lack of toners, tapes, papers. I was a lawyer and I gave the paper to the court. There was a lack of paper because the state was not able to provide the courts with paper, toner back then, and it was provided by the lawyers and the parties to the hearing. Courts and courthouses were in places under the government buildings or in places which were made up by the destructed shopping malls or destructed houses in some places.
WE ADDED 6 MILLION SQUARE-METERS OF CLOSED AREAS TO COURTHOUSES
On 18 November 2002, Türkiye had courthouses which had 569 thousand 59 square-meters of closed area and now, we added 6 million square-meters of closed areas to it. In 79 years, there was 569 thousand 59 square-meters area; we added 6 million square-meters areas in 20 years. We realised a great change. We increased the number of judges and prosecutors from about 8 thousand to some 23 thousand, we strengthened our staff, we give a computer to each judge and prosecutor of ours every five years, and we made great contribution in the acceleration of proceedings by creating the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP). Previously, when people requested documents from the land registry administration, it was written by the court or the prosecutor, and it was submitted to the land registry and it would take months before it was received. But now, the citizens press the button and there is no need for a writing. On the one hand, there is a financial saving, and on the other hand, an acceleration gives time saving and I’d like to state that we materialised a great step. We also increased the number of our courts and we introduced the courts of appeal to our legal system. I’d like to express that we will also take steps to establish new courts in the new period. There are some mayors present here and I think that this will be a better news for them.
WE ARE ESTABLISHING NEW COURTS IN 7 PROVINCES
I just signed yesterday and hopefully, we are now establishing new administrative courts in our provinces of Ağrı, Kars, Bingöl and Kırklareli, and I hope that these will yield the greatest good for those provinces and for our citizens living there. In addition, we are establishing Regional Courts of Appeal in our provinces of Tekirdağ, Malatya and Denizli and thus, I’d like to express that this will make an important contribution in the acceleration of the appeal processes and timely realisation of justice in judicial proceedings. Before I finalise my remarks, I’d like to touch upon the following issue and then, leave your kind presence.
TÜRKİYE ADOPTED THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
In the recent days, Türkiye’s attitude towards Finland and Sweden, who applied for NATO membership, is being discussed, and in fact, there are no problems and issues regarding the attitude of Türkiye; Türkiye adopted the right attitude. You’ll remember, we had gone through the war of Cyprus and were a member of NATO at that time and Greece was not a member of NATO. The world, including NATO, imposed an embargo on us. You’ll remember again, in the events that transpired in Syria, we said that “declare forbidden zone” while bombs were falling on to the territory of Türkiye and people were left on the border of Syria between the choices of life and death, and they did not declare it. We said that “we are a member of NATO, provide support to us” and they did not; neither the European Union nor NATO provided support. Now look at Ukraine, they are providing everything. We were a member of NATO and now Ukraine is not a member of NATO. They are giving everything but they are not giving anything to Türkiye which is a member of NATO. We need to see this and, in the words of our President, should remember the process of taking of Greece and look ahead accordingly. Fulling a promise that is made to us is more important that the word itself because Türkiye is virtually a champion of unfulfilled promises that are made to it. Our country has been at the doors of the European Union since 1960’s alongside the promises made to Türkiye. More precisely, they said that “if Türkiye realises what Türkiye undertakes, we will accept Türkiye” but they did not. Every time, they changed the rules during the game. They said “Copenhagen” and we did it; they said “Maastricht Criteria” and we did it. Later on, there were 28 more criteria added and they said that “we will give you right to move freely” in June 2016, and we did it. Later on, they added 5 more articles in our presence. They said that “we will not take Greek Administration of Cyprus” and we approved the Annan Plan. We approved it; the Turkish people approved it but the Greeks did not approve it and they went and took Greek Administration of Cyprus. Those who do not fulfil the promises made to Türkiye every time and those who do not act in a fair way although Türkiye fulfils its liabilities are obvious. There is nothing to blame on us, our government and our country. We see a two-faced politics towards Türkiye and in the current situation, unfortunately, many European Union countries and the USA significantly and publicly support terrorist organisations. The main countries within this meaning is Finland and Sweden, and they haven’t extradited to our country even one of the terrorists from FETÖ and PKK whom are requested to be extradited by Türkiye. Everybody comes to Türkiye when they need help and make the best of promises and after the work is done, there are neither promises nor a good word; everything vanishes. For this reason, I’d like to state at this point that those who evaluate Türkiye should evaluate Türkiye by seeing the point to which it leaped and reached. Those who choose terrorist organisations over Türkiye should see the damage done to them by themselves as a result of the wrong nature of their own choices, instead of seeing the wrong choices of Türkiye. What would happen if they don’t see? They will lose time. But, sooner or later, the state of the Republic of Türkiye will teach them this, make them see what they cannot see and make them hear what they cannot hear with its capacity to teach, make one see and make one hear. With god’s will, we will continue on our road strongly and in unity; may god protect this nation and this state from harm.
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