15 March 2013 /BÜŞRA ERDAL, İSTANBUL (Today's Zaman)
Amendments that are frequently made to the same laws, and most of the time only to resolve a short-term problem, lead to problems and confusion in implementation, raising the need for amendments that will be legally viable for the duration of the legislation.
The fourth judicial reform package mainly aims to do away with violations of human rights, ensure fair trials, expand the boundaries of freedom of expression and prevent lengthy detentions and trials. The parliamentary Justice Commission began discussions on the package on Thursday.
An updated definition of terrorism in accordance with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) is expected to be made in this judicial package. The new definition will most likely have resorting to violence as its main criterion, while acts that do not entail any violence, such as propagating ideas, are expected to be left out of the definition.
The fourth judicial package is also expected to include articles aimed at prohibiting torture and maltreatment, preventing violations of freedom and the right to security, eliminating obstacles before freedom of speech and liberty of conscience, strengthening the rights of the accused, reinforcing the efficiency of defense efforts and protecting privacy and family life in a more solid way.
Amendments made to the TMK in the past have a long history.
Article 7 of the TMK dated 1993 said those who commit acts of propaganda of terrorism as punished with a prison sentence of up to five years. There was not any specific information about the specific elements of this crime.
According to another amendment made in 2002, punishments for terrorism propaganda would be given on condition that there is encouragement to terrorism methods, which was again an ambiguous definition.
Amendments made to the same law in 2003 as part of Turkey's efforts to harmonize its legislation with that of the EU, said that punishments for terrorism propaganda would be given when individuals encourage others to resort to violence or other terrorism methods. Yet, these amendments stayed in effect only for three years as Parliament took a backward step in 2006 to omit the “violence” part of this article.
During this process, some media outlets and civil society organizations asked Parliament not to take any backward step from the 2003 amendments in the TMK, but their efforts failed.
New amendments in 2006 saw the TMK returning to its previous version calling for punishments for those making terrorism propaganda although the do not resort to violence or encourage this.
This amendment continued to place Turkey into a difficult situation at the ECtHR. Over the past years, several others amendments were made to the same law, which all brought new workload to the courts and slowed down the functioning of judicial processes in the country.