1st Judicial Conference of the Constitutional/Supreme Courts/Councils of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Member/Observer States
The 1st Judicial Conference of the Constitutional/Supreme Courts/Councils of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Member/Observer States, intended for building a judicial forum to ensure an efficient and constructive dialogue among superior courts of these States, was hosted by the Turkish Constitutional Court (“the Court”) in Istanbul on 14-15 December 2018.
The conference was hold on the theme of “The Role of Higher Judiciary in Protecting the Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights”. Representatives of courts/institutions from 42 countries graced the Conference.
The Conference was inaugurated with participation of the President of the Turkish Republic Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. President Erdoğan stated in his opening speech that the term “justice” has been one of the much-discussed issues from the first human being to the present, and indicated that throughout the history, humankind witnessed inevitable collapse of the societies and States that had departed from justice. Noting that one of the major threats with respect to justice was adherence of judicial authorities to ideological obsessions and disregard of mind and conscious, President Erdoğan stressed that measures against such threats had been employed carefully by observing the rule of law. He ended his speech by wishing that the Conference be a platform to discuss such issues in further detail.
President of the Turkish Constitutional Court Mr. Zühtü Arslan, pointed out that the opening ceremony of the Conference was being held at the Grand Ceremonial Hall (Muayede Hall) of the Dolmabahçe Palace where the opening ceremony of the First Ottoman Parliament was also held on 20 March 1877. Mr. Arslan made a reference to the opening speech delivered by Sultan Abdulhamid II who stated therein that in the development of states and nations as well as in government affairs, rights and interests of every class of people must be observed, also pointing out the significance of allowances made by the Ottoman State –through the Pact (“Ahidname”) issued by Sultan Fatih in 1463– for the freedom of religion and denomination.
Mr. Arslan also noted that the continuous restatement of the distinction between us and “the other” and seeing “the other” as an object to be destroyed rather than human-being to live together amounted to bigotry which today manifested itself, especially in the West, as xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia; and that such a virus, spreading rapidly, poisoned day by day the environment that was necessary for the coexistence of diversities. Mr. Arslan stated that it could not be nevertheless said that the Islamic countries were doing well in respect of justice, rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms and stressed the need to make self-criticism.
Noting that the constitutional courts/councils and supreme courts with equivalent jurisdiction of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), having the highest number of member countries after the United Nations, convened for the first time at a conference, Mr. Arslan also stated that the Conference, the first initiative in its field, would also pave the way for forming a permanent platform among these constitutional/supreme courts/councils which would provide a significant opportunity for reflecting on common legal matters, deliberating case-law and practice, as well as for sharing ideas and experiences.
Following the opening ceremony, Deputy-President of the Court Mr. Engin Yıldırım chaired the first session on “The Rule of Law and Human Rights in the Practice of Constitutional Justice” and Justice Mr. Hasan Tahsin Gökcan chaired the second session on “Upholding the Rule of Law and Human Rights through Supreme Adjudication”. On the second day of the Conference, the third session on “Global and Domestic Dynamics in Protecting the Rule of Law and Human Rights” was held under the chairmanship of Justice Mr. Kadir Özkaya.
The closing session of the Conference was chaired by Mr. Zühtü Arslan, during which the Istanbul Declaration was adopted. The Heads and representatives of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts/Councils and Equivalent Institutions of the Member/Observer States of OIC thereby declared their commitment to the supremacy of the rule of law, human rights, and universal legal principles.
Recognizing the need for greater cooperation and agreeing in principle to engage in activities to establish a forum among the participant institutions for exchanging knowledge and experiences, the heads/representatives of the Courts/Councils and Equivalent Institutions of the Member States of OIC present at the Conference resolved to:
- Convene regular conferences in order to discuss constitutional and human rights matters of shared concern;
- Form a Working Committee at expert-level consisting of Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Pakistan, Gambia;
- Prepare a report on the necessary steps to discover the possibilities for building a close partnership, which would be submitted to the respective Courts/Councils/ Equivalent Institutions; and
- Hold the next Conference in 2020 in Indonesia under the patronage of Indonesian Constitutional Court.