7th International Summer School event themed “Presumption of Innocence”
08 September 2019

The 7th International Summer School event (8-14 September), which is organized every year by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey under the auspices of the Association of the Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions (AAMB), started with the opening ceremony held at the Constitution Court.

In his inaugural speech, Mr. Zühtü Arslan, President of the Turkish Constitutional Court, expressed his satisfaction to host the widest-reaching meeting which has been held so far with the participation of a total of 22 countries including Turkey.   

 “This event serves for the Association’s objective to improve democracy, rule of law and human rights”

Indicating that the summer school event attended also by the courts/institutions of guest countries along with those of the member countries aims at ensuring enhanced exchange of information and experience on constitutional justice as well as developing inter-institutional relations, President Mr. Arslan stresses that this event serves for the Association’s objective to improve democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Mr. Arslan, noting that, in the summer schools organized so far, fundamental rights and freedoms have been discussed specifically on the themes of Principle of Equality and Prohibition of Discrimination; Right to a Fair Trial; Freedom of Expression; Right to Respect for Private Life; Migration and Refugee Law; and Right to Liberty and Security, further states that theme of this year’s summer school is “Presumption of Innocence”.

President Mr. Arslan expresses that during the programme, along with the discussions as to how this principle is interpreted and implemented in the Turkish legal system, the participants will also deliver presentations to provide an insight into the presumption of innocence from their countries’ perspective. He also notes that a jurist from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will provide information on the relevant international legislation and practices and that all presentations delivered throughout the programme will be compiled in a book and made available to those concerned.

 “Presumption of innocence in Turkey dates back to the Ottoman Code of Civil Law (Mecelle)”

President Mr. Arslan states that this principle is defined, in the general sense, as the presumption of an individual’s innocence until proven guilty by a court decision. He accordingly adds:

“In fact, principle of innocence has also undergone a long and hard historical journey, as the other fundamental rights have… During the post-Second World War period, presumption of innocence was first worded in the universal and regional human rights-related instruments. In Article 11 § 2 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948 and Article 6 § 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights of 1950, presumption of innocent is designated as an element inherent in the right to a fair trial.

In Turkey, presumption of innocence dates back to the Ottoman Code of Civil Law that was formulated at the last stage of the Ottoman Empire. In Article 8 thereof, it is enshrined that Everyone is free of debt unless proven otherwise’. Accordingly, what really matters is having no debt. If anyone claims to have money lent to another person, he is obliged to substantiate it. In short, the plaintiff has to prove his claim. This principle laid down in the Mecelle -a civil law text- is incorporated into the criminal law as presumption of innocence.”

President Mr. Arslan states that Article 38 of the Constitution that is in force provides that “No one shall be considered guilty until proven so by a court decision” and he also mentions how the presumption of innocence is explained in the legislative intention of the said article.

In addition, underlining that the Constitution-maker acknowledges the presumption of innocence as an absolute principle that cannot be limited even in a state of emergency, Mr. Arslan remarks that therefore no one can be considered guilty until proven so by a court decision in times of war, mobilization and a state of emergency. 

 “The Constitutional Court has rendered important decisions on the interpretation and implementation of the principle of presumption of innocence”

Mr. Arslan, indicating that the Constitutional Court has rendered important decisions on the interpretation and implementation of the principle of presumption of innocence within the scope of both constitutionality review and individual application, mentions some issues concerning the presumption of innocence that have been discussed in the Constitutional Court’s decisions.

President Mr. Arslan underlines that the presumption of innocence was defined as a “fundamental right” in one of the Constitutional Court’s decisions on constitutionality review earlier this year and he gives examples of some of the decisions of the Court.

“Use of an ‘incriminating’ language violates the presumption of innocence”

Mr. Arslan, pointing to the fact that the language used by the courts and public authorities is of capital importance in view of the presumption of innocence, states that use of a language incriminating a person -who has not been convicted with a final judgment or has been acquitted for lack of evidence or for any other reason or in respect of whom the proceedings have been discontinued, suspended or the pronouncement of the judgment has been suspended- will be in breach of his presumption of innocence, and he makes reference to a recent decision of the Constitutional Court.

At the end of his speech, stating that “The principle of the presumption of innocence requires the public authorities to avoid incriminating the persons without a final conviction judgment against them, while making public statements within the scope of criminal justice”, thanks the participants who have come to our country and will contribute to the symposium with their presentations, and he also wishes that this year’s Summer School will be fruitful and successful.

International Summer School Activities

The participants made presentations on how the “Principle of Presumption of Innocence” is implemented in their countries within the scope of the 7th Summer School of the AACC. At the end of the event, a General Assessment Session and Certificate Ceremony was held on 11 September.

The participating courts/institutions of the 7th Summer School, along with the Turkish Constitutional Court, are as follows:

Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Constitutional Court of Bulgaria, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia, Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, Constitutional Court of Palestine, Constitutional Court of Georgia, Constitutional Court of Croatia, Constitutional Council of Cameroon, Constitutional Court of Montenegro, Constitutional Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Kosovo, Supreme Court of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Federal Court of Malaysia, Constitutional Court of Mongolia, Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Constitutional Court of Thailand and Constitutional Court of Ukraine.