Erdogan wants his control of the legal system built into the very architecture of the state.
The rule of law in the Republic of Turkey is unravelling at a terrifying speed. The significance of this is underappreciated by the international community, and responsibility for drawing attention to it falls in part to lawyers everywhere. Many of their Turkish peers are the direct targets of an authoritarian crackdown.
At The Hague last week, an international tribunal considered the position of one of its own – judge Aydin Sedaf Akay. Allocated to hear the appeal of a principal organiser of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Turkish national Akay is detained without charge in Turkey. This is despite his diplomatic immunity being asserted by the UN. As a consequence, the appeal has stalled.
Popular leaders can get away with errant actions and misuse the law. The police in any country can use their power to conceal wrongdoing – at home, events surrounding the Hillsborough disaster show we have no special immunity in this regard.
But the agenda of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan requires urgent attention. His proposed constitutional reforms, unveiled last week, go beyond the abuse of his powers seen since the failure of July’s coup attempt. They seek to build repression and personal control of the legal system into the very architecture of the state.
As judge Akay’s detention illustrates, the effects of events in Turkey stretch far beyond its borders.