The Odyssey of the Turkish Constitutional Court into the World of Individual Application


Insight Turkey Volume 18 No. 4, 2016

In the context of a discussion on whether Turkish Studies is a theory-consuming or a theory producing field of study, Murat Somer has succinctly articulated antagonistic features of the Turkish polity, existing side by side often in a way that breeds unabated political and societal strife: “Turkey is middle eastern and western, a strong and a weak state, democratic with a long history of democratization and authoritarian with a long history of oppressing dissent, all at the same time.” It is against this background that the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) has been undertaking constitutional review since 1962. As one of the oldest constitutional courts in the non-western world, its jurisprudence has reflected the ups and downs of the country’s turbulent political history. Long seen as an uncompromising defender of the status quo, the TCC has recently begun to adopt a more rights-based adjudication. This shift has largely been due to the introduction of the individual application system, which has compelled the Court to reflect the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Unlike abstract and concrete norm reviews where the Court deals with issues of more abstract nature, the individual application procedure calls for the Court to pinpoint alleged violations of constitutional rights by public power and provide the victim with effective remedies.

This paper aims to explore the function of the individual application procedure in protecting and expanding fundamental rights and challenges posed by the operation of the system. To this end, we first offer a brief sketch of the TCC’s role and place in the Turkish polity and its judicial attitude prior to the individual application procedure. We, then, move on to discuss the procedure and its effect on the Court’s judicial behavior.

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