Turkey - Judicial system

The judicial system was left substantially intact by the 1982 constitution, except for the addition of special state security courts to handle cases involving terrorism and state security. There are four branches of courts: general law courts, military courts, state security courts, and a constitutional court.

The general law courts include civil, administrative, and criminal courts. Decisions of civil courts with original jurisdiction are appealable to a high court of appeals in Ankara. The high court of appeals also hears cases involving charges against members of the cabinet and other high functionaries. It also hears appeals for criminal cases, including appeals from the state security courts. A council of state hears appeals from administrative cases.

The military courts have jurisdiction over military personnel and include courts of first instance and a military court of appeals.

The state security courts are composed of five-member panels. They are found in eight cities and try defendants accused of crimes dealing with terrorism, gang-related crimes, drug smuggling, membership in illegal organizations, and sedition.

The constitutional court reviews the constitutionality of legislation at the time of passage both when requested by the required percentage of members of parliament and in the context of review of constitutional issues which emerge during litigation.

The constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary from the executive and provides for life tenure for judges. It also explicitly prohibits state authorities from issuing orders or recommendations concerning the exercise of judicial power. A high council of judges and prosecutors selects judges and prosecutors for the higher courts and oversees those in lower courts. In practice, the courts act independently of the executive.

The constitution guarantees defendants the right to a public trial. The bar association is responsible for providing free counsel to indigent defendants. There is no jury system. All cases are decided by a judge or a panel of judges.

The European Court of Human Rights is the final arbiter in cases concerning human rights.

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