The 8th International Summer School event (7-8 September) organised by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey, in its capacity as the Centre for Training and Human Resources Development under the Permanent Secretariat of the Association of the Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions (AACC), was held with online participation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The program started with the inaugural speech of Mr. Zühtü Arslan, President of the Turkish Constitutional Court. After expressing his sadness for not being able to host the participants this year in Ankara because of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Arslan expressed his great pleasure for being together with participants from twenty-eight different countries, albeit in a virtual environment. Noting that the current pandemic showed us how important the international solidarity was, President Arslan underlined that the judicial bodies should act together with respect to protection of the rule of law and fundamental rights.
“Summer School will make a significant contribution to both judicial analyses and the constitutional justice literature”
Noting that almost all judicial systems allowed for taking extraordinary measures under the states of emergency such as the ongoing pandemic, and that in this scope, countries have adopted various measures owing to which the pandemic was brought under control to a certain extent, President Arslan stated that the Turkish Constitutional Court also swiftly implemented such measures. President Arslan, also stating that the pandemic –placing everyone, if you will, under house-arrest for a long time– once again reminded us the value of the fundamental rights and freedoms, underlined that the pandemic and related measures brought these fundamental rights and freedoms to the forefront of the constitutional justice. As regards the program, he also noted:
“It is of great importance that the high judicial bodies in different countries exchange opinions and experiences on the judicial issues. In fact, your discussions during this Summer School will make a significant contribution to both judicial analyses and the constitutional justice literature.”
“Constitutional or supreme courts play significant roles in protecting rights and liberties of individuals.”
Referring to the remark of Lord Acton “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, President Arslan specified that this historical fact led to the idea that especially political power must be restricted to protect individual rights and liberties. President Arslan added that the idea of limiting power might be traced back to the ancient times and that traces of this could be seen in the Gilgamesh Epic which was written about four thousand years ago.
Stating that the constitutional courts were created with a view of helping to solve the problem of controlling the authority and that the constitutional or supreme courts, charged with the review of constitutionality of legislative and executive acts, played significant roles in protecting rights and liberties of individuals, President Arslan indicated that this role became more crucial in times of emergencies. He continued as follows:
“We all know that rights and freedoms are inevitably subject to more restrictions than the ordinary times during such a period. Undoubtedly, the aim pursued by these restrictions should be to ensure the return to ordinary times within the shortest time possible. The measures derogating from the rights and freedoms must be lifted once the ongoing threat is overcome. At this point, the judicial institutions are entrusted with very important duties.”
President Arslan underlined that in times of emergencies, the constitutional courts must protect constitutional rights by operating within the boundaries of the constitution itself. Noting that solving the problem of pandemic was the task of executive and legislative powers, President Arslan stressed that the role of the courts in such process was to ensure that the state authorities acted within constitutional and statutory boundaries.
Ending his speech, President Arslan extended his thanks to healthcare professionals all around the world working with great sacrifice during the pandemic and wished a successful and fruitful Summer School program which would contribute to academic debates as well as the case laws of respective courts regarding legal issues surrounding the ongoing pandemic.
Summer School Activities
Within the scope of the 8th International Summer School activities, thematic discussions, moderated by Deputy Secretary General of the Turkish Constitutional Court, were held. The theme of the discussions at the 1st session was “Constitutional and Legal Framework on Health Emergencies”, while the constitutional and legal bases of Covid-19 measures were discussed at the 2nd session. The introductory video prepared for the Summer School was appreciated by the participants. The program was ended with the closing remarks of Secretary General of the Turkish Constitutional Court.
The participating courts/institutions of the 8th Summer School are as follows:
Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Indonesia, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea, Independent Commission Overseeing the Implementation of Constitution of Afghanistan, Constitutional Court of Albania, Constitutional Council of Algeria, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Constitutional Court of Bulgaria, Constitutional Council of Cameroon, Constitutional Court of Georgia, Supreme Court of India, Constitutional Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Kosovo, Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic, Federal Court of Malaysia, Supreme Court of the Maldives, Constitutional Court of Mongolia, Constitutional Court of Montenegro, Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Constitutional Court of North Macedonia, Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Tajikistan, Constitutional Court of Thailand, Supreme Court of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Constitutional Court of Ukraine, and Constitutional Court of Uzbekistan.