'Legal security key principle in new human rights plan'

Turkish justice minister says they worked on fresh roadmap with people from all segments of society

Gozde Bayar and Jeyhun Aliyev???   | 03.03.2021
'Legal security key principle in new human rights plan' Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul makes a speech as he is a special guest of Anadolu Agency's Editors’ Desk in Ankara, Turkey on March 03, 2021. ( Mustafa Murat Kaynak - Anadolu Agency )


Legal security is "the most important principle" in Turkey's groundbreaking new Human Rights Action Plan, designed as a response to the wants and needs of the Turkish public, the nation's justice minister said on Wednesday.

Abdulhamit Gul told Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk that if there is legal and economic security in a country, it can take firm steps forward to the future.

When there is legal security in the country, it guarantees people’s freedoms, security, economic investments, and employment, he said.

The Human Rights Action Plan is a reminder not only to courts, judges, and prosecutors but to the public in every field, he said, adding that all people will feel the positive impact of the plan in all areas.

"Since it concerns all our citizens, we have worked on the issue with all segments of the society," he said.

We will set our goals and open them to our nation's control, he added.

Turkey on Tuesday announced its new action plan on human rights, which has 11 main principles set to be carried out over the course of two years.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the first goal in the action plan was to establish a "more robust human rights protection system" aiming to strengthen the rule of law based on human rights.

The new action plan is a step in the reform journey that the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has been carrying out continuously and uninterruptedly since the day it was founded in 2001.

The action plan will enable everyone living in the country to become more free individuals, and help build a stronger society as well as a more democratic Turkey, Gul noted.

"This is not a law text, but a goodwill document," he said, adding that it is not a text just for political parties, but for all people.

On the critics about the plan, he said they will examine all arguments "with great care" and treat them as constructive and serious criticisms.

New constitution

Regarding debates on a new constitution, Gul said Turkey wants to make the new constitution process a participatory one.

Recalling that 19 amendments were made to the constitution, Gul said a new constitution will be the "common will" that will enable enhancing democracy, freedoms and reaching Turkey's goals set for 2023.

The constitution is Turkey's fundamental document of everyone's will to live together regardless of their thoughts, beliefs, and ethnicity, Gul stressed, saying most of the society does not embrace "the spirit or even the text" of the current constitution.

The Turkish government does not force on adopting a certain constitution, but calls upon the whole nation and all elected political parties to bring their suggestions "to get rid of a constitution made by coup plotters."

"Is Turkey still obliged to be governed by a constitution made by the coup plotters? Are civilians, political parties, parties represented in the parliament incapable of making a [new] constitution? Of course not. Turkey deserves that and I believe that it [the country] will come up with this constitution in the coming period," he said.

A new constitution is a "very important text as a social contract" in terms of democracy, for "walking firmly together to the future" for the sake of the country, and further protecting the nation's unity and solidarity, Gul also said.

"I believe that we will realize this social contract by embracing it together with all segments of the society," he added.

The ruling AK Party has 289 seats in the 600-seat parliament, while the MHP has 48, adding up to 337, but this falls short of the 360-vote majority needed to pass a new constitution.

Last month, Erdogan urged all political parties to participate in drafting a new constitution, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli has voiced agreement on the need for a new civilian constitution.

Electoral threshold

According to the plan, the country will start comprehensive work to revise the political parties and electoral laws to strengthen democratic participation.

A new political parties and electoral law that Turkey needs would envisage more political participation, Gul said. 

"It [the presence of the threshold] is the discretion of the parliament, but since stability in administration is subject to constitutional guarantees, I think the [electoral] threshold has no meaning anymore."

He added that all necessary steps should be taken to ensure even a single voter participates more effectively in the country's administration.

There is a 10% threshold required for the parties to claim seats in the Turkish parliament.

The plan is the main policy document for Turkey as the country prepares to mark its 100th anniversary. The document emphasizes property rights, vested rights, individual criminal responsibility, and the presumption of innocence while also enhancing transparency, accountability, and judicial independence and objectivity.

Our citizens deserve the best

Drawing to Turkey's EU membership bid, Gul said regardless of the EU approach, the country will continue to carry out its reforms with an attitude that "our citizens deserve the best."

Turkey has made "important preparations" for the EU visa exemption, he said, adding that if the EU "sincerely" contributes to the process, positive results will be achieved.

“We expect the visa exemption process to be successfully completed,” he said.

Stressing that Turkey maintains good relations with the EU based on mutual protection of rights and interests, he said Turkey cares about the accession process to the EU.

Turkey’s stance on the issue has not changed, while the EU attitude sometimes fluctuates, Gul noted.

The 2016 deal allowed for the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.

Despite its EU candidate status, Turkey's progress towards accession has been stalled for years.

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