Konferansta Anayasa Mahkemesi Başkanı Zühtü Arslan, “Etkili Bir Anayasa Yargısı İçin Şartlar: Türkiye Tecrübesinden Çıkarılan Dersler” başlıklı bir konuşma yaptı. Konuşmasının başında insan topluluklarının ortaya çıkışından bu yana çözülmesi gereken temel sorunun yöneticilerin mutlak iktidarının nasıl etkin bir şekilde sınırlandırılacağı olduğunu vurgulayan Başkan Arslan, anayasacılığın ve anayasal adalet düşüncesinin bireylerin hak ve özgürlüklerini korumak amacıyla iktidarın sınırlandırılması sorununa verilen bir tepki olarak ortaya çıktığını dile getirdi.
“Anayasa mahkemelerinin veya yüksek mahkemelerin varlığı tek başına temel hak ve özgürlüklerin korunması için yeterli değildir.” diyen Başkan Arslan etkili ve işlevsel bir anayasa yargısının haricî ve dâhilî şartların gerçekleşmesine bağlı olduğunun altını çizerek “Bu şartlar, anayasal düzenin kurumsal niteliğine ilişkindir. … Haricî şart, anayasal sisteme kuvvetler ayrılığı ilkesinin hâkim olmasıdır. Bu ilke; yasama, yürütme ve yargı erklerinin farklı ellerde toplanmaması durumunda hak ve özgürlükleri korumanın imkânsız olacağı fikrine dayanmaktadır. … Etkili bir anayasa yargısının dâhilî şartı ise anayasa mahkemelerinin hak eksenli paradigmayı benimsemeleridir. … Anayasa yargısına hâkim olması gereken hak-eksenli paradigma anayasaların temel hak ve özgürlüklerin lehine, onlara diğer sosyal menfaatler karşısında öncelik verecek şekilde yorumlanmasını gerektirmektedir.” diyerek sözlerine devam etti.
Türkiye’de hak-eksenli yaklaşımın gelişim sürecine dikkat çeken Başkan Arslan, Anayasa Mahkemesinin başörtüsüne ilişkin kararlarından hareketle sürecin gelişim aşamalarına yönelik bilgiler verdi. Hak-eksenli yaklaşımın öncesi ve sonrasını netleştirmek adına Anayasa Mahkemesinin verdiği kararlardan yola çıkan Başkan Arslan, Mahkemenin 1989 ve 2008 yıllarında başörtüsünü üniversitelerde serbest bırakmaya yönelik kanun ve anayasa değişikliklerini Anayasa’daki laiklik ilkesine aykırı bularak iptal ettiğini belirtti. Arslan, bireysel başvuru mekanizmasının kabul edilmesiyle birlikte 2012 yılından itibaren Türk Anayasa Mahkemesinin laiklik dahil anayasal ilkeleri hak-eksenli yaklaşımla yorumladığını ve uyguladığını ifade etti.
Hak-eksenli yaklaşımı benimsedikten sonra Anayasa Mahkemesinin 2014 yılında bir avukatın başörtüsü taktığı ve bu durumun laiklik ilkesine aykırı olduğu gerekçesiyle duruşma salonundan çıkarılmasını konu alan bir başvuruyu incelediğini hatırlatan Başkan Arslan, anılan başvuruda Mahkemenin başvurucunun din özgürlüğüne yapılan müdahalenin “kanunilik” şartını karşılamadığına karar verdiğini belirtti. Somut örnekte, ayrıca başvurucunun dinî inançları gereği duruşmaya başörtülü olarak katılmasının engellenmesinin nesnel ve makul bir dayanağının bulunmadığı sonucuna varıldığını dile getiren Başkan Zühtü Arslan, bu bağlamda Mahkemenin başvurucunun başörtüsü takmayan avukatlara kıyasla dezavantajlı bir durumda bırakıldığını değerlendirerek ayrımcılık yasağının da ihlal edildiğine hükmettiğini ifade etti. Bu örnek karar üzerinden Türk Anayasa Mahkemesinin hak-eksenli yaklaşımını somutlaştıran Başkan Arslan, sonuç olarak mahkemelerimizin tecrübelerinden çıkarılacak çok önemli dersler bulunduğunu ve bu derslerden en önemli olanın da anayasa mahkemeleri ve yüksek mahkemelerin önlerindeki davaları karara bağlarken hak-eksenli bir yaklaşımı benimsemelerinin gerekliliği olduğunu dile getirdi. Başkan Arslan bu gerekliliğin anayasal adaletin temel hedeflerine ulaşabilmesinin temel şartı olduğunu vurgulayarak konuşmasını sonlandırdı.
Başkan Arslan'ın konuşma metni şöyle;
The Conditions for an Effective Constitutional Judiciary: Lessons from the Turkish Experience *
Zühtü Arslan **
Honourable President of the Constitutional Court of Kazakhstan,
Distinguished Presidents and Justices,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here and to address such distinguished participants.
I would like to thank President Azimova Elvira Abilkhasimovna for her kind invitation to this well-organised international conference. I am sure it will be very stimulating and successful in all respects.
I would like to say a few words about the requirements for an effective system of constitutional review.
We all know that the idea of constitutional justice is based on the assumption that our rights and freedoms are not guaranteed when rulers have absolute power. This has nothing to do with the moral virtues of those in power. As “The History of Herodotus”, written 2500 years ago, makes clear, absolute power has the potential to corrupt “even the best of all men”.1
Since the emergence of human societies, the main question to be resolved has been how to effectively limit the absolute power of rulers. The idea of constitutionalism and constitutional justice has been a response to the problem of limiting power with a view to safeguarding the rights and freedoms of individuals.
In today’s constitutional democracies, the need for constitutional review of legislative and executive acts is almost taken for granted. Indeed, it is inconceivable to construct a constitutional state without a judicial body empowered to review the constitutionality of laws and administrative acts.
It is undoubtedly the law that can make the powerful just. Indeed, the main function of the law is to combine power and justice by limiting political power. Accordingly, as the late Alija Izetbegović said, “the law starts where the limitation of this power begins”.2
However, the mere existence of a constitution is not enough to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights. It is not sufficient simply because the law also generates power and limits it at the same time. As a leading public law scholar has pointed out, “understood as droit politique, law is itself a power-generating phenomenon”.3
It is a well-known fact that the existence of an institution does not in itself guarantee the function expected of it. In this sense, the mere existence of constitutional or supreme courts is not sufficient to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. An effective and functional constitutional judiciary depends on the fulfilment of external and internal conditions. Both are related to the institutional quality of the constitutional order.
The external condition is the predominance of the principle of separation of powers in the constitutional system. This principle is based on the idea that in cases where the legislative, executive and judicial powers are not divided into separate branches, the protection of rights and freedoms becomes impossible. “All would be lost”, Montesquieu warned us, if these powers of the State were united and exercised by the same man or the same body.4 It is for this reason that, following long-standing and sorrowful experience, the principle of the separation of powers has become a sine qua non of modern constitutions.
The internal condition for an effective constitutional jurisdiction is that the constitutional courts adopt a rights-based paradigm. It should be noted that the term “right” has two meanings, as does the corresponding term in Turkish of Arabic origin, “hak”. In English, “right” refers to “justice” on the one hand, and to “having something” on the other. In this sense, the “rights-based” paradigm requires the accordance and assurance of right, which refers to both justice and right according to the two meanings attributed to the term.
The rights-based paradigm assumes that the protection of rights and freedoms is the rule and restriction the exception. This approach requires that the constitution be interpreted in favour of freedoms by giving priority to fundamental rights vis-a-vis any kind of social and political interests.
Indeed, the Constitutional Court of Türkiye has emphasised that the rights-based approach must dominate constitutional justice. According to the Court, constitutional provisions “can fully fulfil their functions if they are interpreted in the context of the development of pluralist democracy and in a rights-based manner.”5
I argue that the constitutional or supreme courts can only function as guardians of fundamental rights if they adopt a rights-based paradigm for cases. Let me give you a clear example from the case-law of the Turkish Constitutional Court.
In Türkiye, a Muslim-majority country, there was an intense debate about the constitutionality of banning the headscarf in universities and public offices. The Turkish Parliament passed a law in 1988 in order to remove the ban, but the Constitutional Court annulled it on the grounds that the law was contrary to the constitutional principle of secularism. The Court declared that secularism could not be sacrificed for the sake of liberties.6
Almost two decades after this judgment, the Court went even further and annulled the constitutional amendments that were enacted to abolish the headscarf ban in universities. The Court ruled that the amendments violated the constitutional principle of secularism, which is enshrined as an eternal clause in Article 2 of the Constitution.7
With the implementation of the individual application system in 2012, the Court has shifted its direction to apply constitutional principles in favour of the individual and human rights rather than state ideology. The Turkish Constitutional Court has adopted a rights-based approach and started to interpret secularism as a constitutional principle in line with fundamental rights and freedoms in a democratic society.
In 2014, the Constitutional Court examined an individual application concerning the expulsion of a lawyer from a courtroom for wearing a headscarf. The trial judge ruled that the lawyer’s presence at the hearing with her headscarf was contrary to the principle of secularism, according to the case-law of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
The Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of religion did not meet the constitutional requirement of “lawfulness”. The Court made it clear that there was no statutory provision preventing a lawyer from wearing a headscarf in the courtroom.8
The Constitutional Court also concluded that there was no objective and reasonable basis for preventing the applicant from being present in the courtroom with a headscarf because of her religious beliefs. Therefore, the prohibition of discrimination was violated, as the applicant was placed in a disadvantageous situation in comparison to the lawyers who did not wear headscarves.9
I have to say that the European Court of Human Rights has given a wide margin of appreciation to the States Parties with regard to the headscarf ban. In most cases, the Strasbourg Court found the bans in France and Türkiye to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights on various grounds, such as the protection of “secularism”, “gender equality”, and “the rights and freedoms of others”, formulated as “living together”.10
In conclusion, there are many important lessons to be drawn from the experiences of our respective courts. I would say that the most important lesson is that constitutional/supreme courts must adopt a rights-based approach in deciding the cases before them. This is the basic requirement for achieving the main objectives of constitutional justice.
More specifically, a rights-based approach requires the authorities, especially the courts, to remove the prohibitions on individual rights and freedoms rather than to enforce the restrictive functions of these prohibitions.
Thank you for your kind attention.
|Prof. Dr. Zühtü ARSLAN|
|The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Türkiye|
* Draft speech to be delivered at the International Conference on “Constitutional Justice: Dignity, Freedom and Justice for All”, Astana, 7-8 September 2023.
** President of the Constitutional Court of Türkiye.
1 The History of Herodotus, trans. G.C. Macaulay, (Lector House, 2019), Vol. 1, Book III, § 80.
2 Alija Izetbegović, Islam Between East and West, Third Edition, (Oak Brook: American Trust Publications, 1993), p. 239.
3 Martin Loughlin, Political Jurisprudence, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 20.
4 Charles-Louis de Secondat, Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws , trans. A.M. Cohler, B.C. Miller, H.S. Stone, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), Book XI, Chapter VI, p. 157.
5 See, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu [Plenary], no. 2019/10634, 1 July 2021, § 133; and also, Ali Kuş [Plenary], no. 2017/27822, 10 February 2022, § 50.
6 See the Court’s decision, no. E.1989/1, K.1989/12, 7 March 1989.
7 See the Court’s decision, no. E. 2008/16, K. 2008/116, 5 June 2008.
8 See Tuğba Arslan [Plenary], no. 2014/256, 25 June 2014 = TUR-2014-3-004 [CODICES], §§ 98, 99. See also B.S., no. 2015/8491, 18 July 2018 for dismissal of a female civil servant from public office for wearing a headscarf.
9 See Tuğba Arslan, § 153.
10 See, for instance, Leyla Şahin v. Türkiye [GC], App. no. 44774/98, 10 November 2005, §§ 116, 122; S.A.S. v. France [GC], App. no. 43835/11, 1 July 2014, §§ 142, 157. On the other hand, the Strasbourg Court found that the exclusion of a Muslim woman wearing an Islamic headscarf from the courtroom was not justified in a democratic society. The Court ruled that the applicant was an ordinary citizen and that her behaviour, namely entering the courtroom wearing a headscarf, was not disrespectful and did not pose or could pose a threat to the proper conduct of the hearing. See Affaire Lachiri c. Belgique, App. no. 3413/09, 18 September 2018, § 46.