3rd International Summit of High Courts Transparency in the Judicial Process

Jun 1, 2016

Statement by
Kamal Malhotra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey
Resident Representative, UNDP Turkey

 

Honorable President of the Court of Cassation of Turkey, Mr. İsmail Rüştü Cirit,

President of Council of State, Ms. Zerrin Gungor,

President of Military Court of Cassation, Commodore Ahmet Zeki Liman,

President of High Military Administration Court, Judge, Major General Abdullah Arslan,

Chief Justices and Justices from the Balkans,

Bursa Governor, Mr. Munir Koraloğlu,

Distinguished Representatives of the International Community,

Members of the Media and Turkish Judiciary,

Distinguished participants,

•       Allow me to begin by saying what a privilege it is to address you at the 3rd International Summit of the High Courts which is dedicated to the important topic of judicial transparency. I wish to express my appreciation to the Court of Cassation of Turkey for our longstanding close cooperation and for its leadership in organizing this event.

•       The Summit is being organized to serve as an important platform for sharing national and international knowledge, experiences, best practices and lessons learned on securing transparency in the judicial process and identifying the essential elements of the multi-faceted concept of judicial transparency. Building on the results of the 2nd Summit in 2013, which led to the Istanbul Declaration on Transparency in Judicial Processes, this 3rd  Summit which brings us together on this platform will be instrumental both in  improving the principles on judicial transparency and recognition by members of High Courts.

•       The referred Declaration was the first comprehensive statement of principles relating to transparency in the administration of justice and is evolutionary in nature . The aim was for the Declaration to be widely used and implemented by High Courts around the world as well as by the international community. To this end, UNDP and the Court of Cassation of Turkey will continue their efforts for its improvement, recognition and implementation at the national, regional and international levels.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

•       It has long been recognized that there are strong links between establishing democratic governance, securing human rights and having access to justice for all. This recognition contributes to the acceleration of judicial reforms, which, in turn, are accepted as an essential condition of sustainable human development.

•       Transparency in judicial processes is fundamental to the strengthening of the rule of law and several elements are necessary to ensure transparency as stated in international norms and principles and UNDP policy documents.

•       First, the right to a public trial and to the public pronouncement of judgments underscores the importance of transparency in the delivery of justice. The judiciary must ensure not only that judicial proceedings are open to the public and the media, but also that the public and the media have ready access, whether on a court website or through a record room, to court documents. 

•       Second is judicial outreach. In a departure from the traditional belief that judges should remain isolated from the community, judicial outreach now involves proactive measures by judges and direct interaction with the communities they serve.  International experience suggests that increased public knowledge about the law and court processes can promote not only judicial transparency but also build public confidence

•       Third is access to justice, which is considered as closely linked with the establishment of democratic governance structures. Access to justice can be seen to be denied if potential litigants do not know how to use the system.  The judiciary should, therefore, provide standard, user-friendly forms and instructions, and furnish clear and accurate information on matters such as operating policies and procedures and filing fees. Other examples are establishment of public relation desks and resource centres that provide single-window service delivery. 

•       Finally, media access to judicial proceedings is not only a matter of simply opening doors to the courtroom and providing seats to journalists. Courts are not well served by inaccurate and sensationalist coverage of court proceedings.  In fact, poor or biased media coverage can undermine public trust in the judiciary and raise concerns with regard to judicial independence, impartiality and integrity. Engaging the media may also require that courts actively reach out to journalists. A successful approach in many countries has involved establishing press or public affairs offices within individual courts, in order to facilitate media coverage of judicial proceedings.

Distinguished Guests,

•       The 3rd International Summit of High Courts comes at a crucial point in time, globally and for Turkey, after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda provides a renewed impetus for developing institutions and processes that are more responsive to the needs of ordinary people, including the poor and marginalized, and that promote sustainable development.

•       The Agenda includes key targets on reducing corruption, improving access to justice, and protecting a number of human rights that were not part of the Millennium Development Goals. SDG 16, for example, seeks to achieve peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, universal access to justice and effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. This can give a new momentum to rethink approaches on how to promote a transparent and accountable judiciary to deliver justice for all. A key imperative is to develop integrated solutions involving a range of actors working in justice systems, while exploring new pathways to involve communities.

•       The SDGs advocate that an independent, transparent and impartial judiciary is a cornerstone of the rule of law and of a democratic state. It serves to protect human rights and people’s liberties, provides a check on other branches of government, and helps secure an environment conducive to economic growth and social progress. Therefore, when the judiciary is not independent and transparent, this undermines the very principles of fairness and due process of law, and can negatively affect much needed investment. In that respect, promotion and implementation of the Principles in the Istanbul Declaration on Judicial Processes can be an important guidance for all countries seeking independent, transparent and accountable judicial institutions.  Moreover, UNDP hopes that today’s event will also contribute to the ongoing process of mainstreaming SDGs in Turkey’s forthcoming national development plan priorities.  

•       Let me come back to Turkey. Judicial reform for a fully accountable and transparent judiciary has been a high priority for Turkey. In the context of EU accession, Turkey has been undertaking comprehensive constitutional and judicial reforms, among which the strengthening of judicial institutions and judicial transparency play a vital role in steering the country along a path of sustained human development. In that respect, the principles adopted as part of the İstanbul Declaration that will be discussed at this Summit will be critical for the further consideration and improvement of transparent judicial processes and systems in Turkey.

•       To this end, UNDP has been associated with the reform process in Turkey through a series of projects on access to justice and strengthening accountable and transparent judicial systems. The strong partnership between UNDP and the Court of Cassation in Turkey started in late 2009 with the aim of improving the institutional and administrative capacity of the high courts in Turkey to conform to international standards.

•       The series of International Summits of the High Courts are therefore intended to contribute to on-going reform initiatives in Turkey and internationally as well as to serve as a platform for sharing knowledge, experiences and best practices, inter alia, on fundamental aspects of judicial reform processes around the world.

•       Today UNDP has the privilege to be with you here in Bursa, the city which has traditionally been a critical centre which has attached refugees from various ethnic backgrounds who immigrated to Anatolia from the Balkans. I hope that this Summit in Bursa will also serve to  take the world one step closer to the recognition and implementation of a set of guiding principles for reforms and improvement in transparency in judicial processes and systems.

•       As UNDP, we are excited about the possibility of contributing to ongoing endeavors in the field of judicial reform in Turkey and all over the world.  We remain committed to continuing to facilitate policy dialogues and exchanges of experiences, including through events such as this Summit of High Courts.

•       Thank you for your attention. I wish you a very successful Summit.

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