How Did The CJP Coerce The Purged Judges And Prosecutors Signing Resignation Letters?

Even for those who have been closely observing Turkey’s gradual reduction from a country with certain democratic problems into nothing short of an autocratic state, it is unpredictable that where will all this end.

They have witnessed the prime minister of the country instructing his own children on how to get rid of the massive stash of bribe money just like they have witnessed how the very magistrates and prosecutors who caught him embezzling public money were arrested and sentenced to life by his cronies in court benches. A couple of years later they saw how thousands of judges and public prosecutors were imprisoned, dismissed and replaced by those who either barely out of the law school or lawyers who are executive of the ruling party’s branches across country. This was as to turn the judiciary into a docile “party organ” for Erdogan.

Unprecedented purge in the judicial branch

It is already well known that President Erdogan by taking advantage to the greatest extent possible of the doomed coup attempt of July 15th, 2016, dismissed some 4600 judges and prosecutors and grasped the full control of the judiciary.  So much so that the Turkish Government’s immediate response to the coup attempt was to suspend judges and prosecutors, rather than launch a sweeping investigation into the military officers who were determined to be involved in the coup. Not long after the putschist troops hit the streets, the Turkish Higher Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the governing body for the members of the judiciary, held a meeting in the early hours of July 16 while all the hell broke loose in Istanbul and Ankara, the two main theatres of action during the ill-fated coup attempt. Immensely odd though it was, during the council was busy with deliberations to craft a hefty list in order to suspend, later purge, thousands of judges and prosecutors. In total, the HSYK initially suspended 2,745 judges and prosecutors from their posts; it instantaneously commenced a campaign to secure their detention across Turkey. This number later increased to 4,646.

Purge of judiciary

It would ofcourse be absurd to even imagine even for a moment that the government and its cronies in the CJP had actually bothered to make a thorough investigation before condemning a third of Turkey’s judiciary to personal and professional ruin. They instead bragged about how they cleansed the Turkish judiciary of “terrorists” in no time when in fact all they did was try to stay on the good side of Erdogan to further their careers at the expense of indescribable agony they inflicted upon their fellow judges and public prosecutors.

‘Social Death’

The life of a judge or a public prosecutor dismissed by an emergency decree law issued during Turkey’s state of emergency is not an easy one. They are subject to at least 30 types of discrimination condemning them to “social death”. You would not be allowed work in most private institutions including schools. You would not be able to work as a lawyer. You and your family would not benefit from national health insurance which people with lower income were normally entitled to. You would not even dream about receiving public incentives to start your own business. And if you have had enough and wanted to leave the country you would not be issued a passport and you would even be stopped from opening up a bank account or using your current account.


Extortion Scheme

In his recent tweet, prominent Turkish law professor Izzet Ozgenc said:  “It is an unprecedented scandal in the field of law that the government has pressured those who were dismissed from public office during the State of Emergency by threatening them of depriving the right to work even in the private sector, and then to make a “resignation bargain”, with them to obtain their “resignation” petitions with the promise of cancelling their dismissal decisions only to process them afterwards.”

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His rather indirect and obscure tweet was indeed pointing at a  scandalous extortion scheme carried out by the Turkish Council of Judges and Prosecutors.

Pro-Erdogan judge Birol Erdem who worked as undersecretary of the Minister of Justice admitted before the court that lists of to-be dismissed judges and prosecutors were under preparation years before the coup attempt, yet the Government did not have evidence against all dismissed judges and prosecutors. Although the evidence against these judges and prosecutors were mostly nothing more than either their professional conducts required by the obligation of independence and impartiality or details of everyday life all of which were lawful under the Constitution and the ECHR.

However, against considerable parts of the dismissed judges and prosecutors, the government did not have evidence even in the way  explained above. Still, as the government was not sure about their absolute loyalty, they were anyway dismissed. 

Although the members of CJP were enjoying the fruits of their unfettered loyalty to Erdogan, they still felt uneasy. Not because of a guilty conscience of course but rather of fear that at some point, the ECtHR will vindicate dismissed judges and prosecutors, and they would have to answer for all the unlawful decisions they made.

The “solution” they came up with was coercing their colleagues which they condemned to unemployment and financial ruin to sign “undated” letters of resignation with the promise that their appeals against their dismissals would be accepted and they would be categorized as resigned instead of dismissed for being “terrorist”. “Otherwise…” they were told “you will remain as a person dismissed by an emergency decree law and will not be able to work”. Stuck between a rock and a hard place and hoping to end the suffering of their families as a result of many restrictions they were subjected to in terms of their pension rights, healthcare and other social benefits, many such judges and prosecutors felt they had no other option but to accept.


According to the official numbers released by the HSK a total of 546 judges and prosecutors were made to sign resignations under such pressure. They did so for the sake of their families and hoped for the best.

Having coerced the judges and prosecutors in question into signing their resignations, instead of dealing with their appeals, HSK aimed to lower the number of dismissal and as well as avoiding being condemned by the ECtHR in lawsuits of these judges and prosecutors.

This is how the CJP which is supposed to ensure the independence and impartiality of judiciary, operates in Turkey.

Categories: Turkey Human Rights Blog

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