[JURIST] The Turkish Parliament [official website] elected seven new members [vote counts;Bursada Bugun report, in Turkish] to the country's 13-member Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) in an overnight vote Wednesday under changes made to the constitution in a referendum last month. The HSK has broad judicial power [Reuters report] in Turkey, overseeing "the appointment, promotion, transfer, disciplining and dismissal of judges and prosecutors." The new members are all candidates of President Tayyip Erdogan's [official website] ruling AK Party or its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party [official websites, in Turkish]. Critics of the move, including members of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party and the secularist Republican People's Party [official websites, in Turkish], say the changes to the constitution which allow the appointments are "illegitimate," and give too much power to Erdogan and the AK Party. Supporters of Erdogan say the expansion of his power [JURIST report], as well as the expulsion of 4,238 judges and prosecutors who were politically aligned with US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, is necessary to combat Kurdish and Islamist militants.
Since the failed coup in Turkey in July, where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken several controversial steps to strengthen its power. Last month, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said [JURIST report] the Turkish Constitutional Court [official website] would reject any opposition challenge to the referendum that expanded Erdogan's powers, and the European Court of Human Rights had no jurisdiction on the matter. In March, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published a report [JURIST report] describing a plethora of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government between July 2015 and December 2016. Also in March around 330 individuals were put on trial [JURIST report] for alleged involvement in an attempted coup. In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children's groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST report] alleging they were connected to terror organizations. In October Human Rights Watch warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in place after the failed coup, had resulted in serious human rights violations.