Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

Rice needs more water

Obviously, it was a very difficult decision for President Abdullah Gül to make. Despite the hopes of opposition parties and skeptics who suspect the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, of harboring a secret agenda to gradually Islamize the administration of secular Turkey and who see the military as "custodian" of the modern republic, and of course the secularism principle, the president did not veto in whole or part the controversial legislation that allows officers to be tried in civilian courts and signed it into law.

In approving into law, however, Gül called on the AKP, a party that escaped closure by the Constitutional Court last year but was convicted in a ten to one vote of being the focus of anti-secular activities and subjected to a hefty fine, to take swift legislative steps to allay the concerns of the strong Turkish military and clarify the scope of the new law. "In implementing these reforms, it would be beneficial for legal changes to be made to remove doubts likely to arise over discipline and legal guarantees from the perspective of military service," the president said in a written statement.

In Turkish, there is a saying, "this rice needs more water," which more or less underlines a conviction that the issue at hand is far from complete or that discussions are not over yet.

Initial reactions from the governing party were clear. From the most adamant including, Bülent Arınç, to the soft speaking and much admired Cemil Çiçek and AKP’s Parliamentary Group deputy chairman Bekir Bozdağ, most AKP spokesmen swiftly declared that they have taken note of the "reservations" the president attached to his decision to endorse the contentious legislation that passed through Parliament on June 26 in a midnight operation without debate. Opposition parties, obviously, underlined that if the president had some reservations about the bill, and if he indeed believed that there was need to take some further legal steps to allay opposition and army concerns, indeed he must send it back for a second review by Parliament. Many critics and constitutional law professors, in addition to opposition parties, have been defending that the new law contravened constitutional Article 145 that defines the duties, responsibilities and the scope of the military courts, as well as the laws on the establishment, peace time and war time duties and scope of military tribunals. Indeed, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has already made clear that it will soon refer the issue to the Constitutional Court to call for its annulment on the grounds of constitutional incompatibility.

Constitutional incompatibility

Many legal experts and the AKP on the other hand have been defending that there is no constitutional incompatibility, and that even if an incompatibility exists, the reform undertaken is in line with European Court of Human Rights verdicts and the reform pledges Turkey has made to the EU to promote its EU accession bid, under the principle of supremacy of international law and international court verdicts to domestic legislation such constitutional incompatibility would be invalidated. Now, everyone will have to wait, first for the CHP to apply to the High Court and then for the court to decide on the issue, while in August the AKP is expected to start considering what further steps could be taken to allay the army’s concerns. But, will the AKP heed the advice of Gül and undertake such a course? Gül made a similar appeal while endorsing the constitutional reform package legislated in the hopes of allowing the headscarf to be worn in universities, the AKP however did not act on the issue and the headscarf amendments became cited as evidence of the AKP’s anti-secular designs in the closure case.

Indeed, even the opposition parties do not object to the new law allowing civilian courts to try military personnel in times of peace for attempts to topple the government and offences related to national security and organized crime, while it also transfers to civilian courts the power to try civilians in peacetime for offences outlined in the military penal code. However, the reform was made with such haste in an ambush-like tactic that besides constitutional incompatibility and a potential confusion of jurisdiction of civilian and military tribunals, with the new law, top generals of the country were left without any judicial shield.

This rice needs more water.