Paylaş | 19 March 2024

President of the Constitutional Court Mr. Zühtü Arslan and the accompanying delegation participated in the ceremony and international conference held in Skopje on 15 March 2024, on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia. During the visit, President Zühtü Arslan was accompanied by Deputy Secretary General Yücel Arslan and Private Secretary to the President Hakan Alumur.

On 14 March 2024, before the conference, President Arslan met with the students of the International Balkan University where he delivered a lecture on "Why Do We Need Constitutional Justice?". In his speech, President Arslan expressed that constitutions and constitutional justice were the culmination of the long process of striving to control the political power and needed to effectively control the rulers and to protect our rights and freedoms.

Underlining that the most significant indicator of the contemporary civilization was to secure justice, President Arslan noted “the most significant manifestation of justice is the effective protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms. Only a just constitutional and legal order can protect our basic rights and liberties vis-a-vis the political and social institutions”.

He further stated that constitutional courts were established with the objective of preserving and protecting the constitution as a social contract, and that in this sense, the constitutional or supreme courts, charged with the review of constitutionality of legislative and executive acts, were undertaking a significant role in protecting the rights and liberties of individuals afforded to them by the constitution/social contract.

President Arslan, pointing to the main role and function of the Turkish Constitutional Court in upholding the values and principles of rule of law, separation of powers and human rights, expressed his satisfaction with the Court’s position as the main guardian of the constitutional principles in Turkish legal system. Noting that through individual application mechanism, the Court had abandoned its deeply embedded ideological or state-based paradigm and instead adopted the rights-based legal paradigm, President Arslan stated “This approach requires that the Constitution be interpreted in favour of freedoms by giving priority to fundamental rights”. He emphasised the Court’s immense and invaluable contribution to the establishment and maintenance of a just constitutional order, making a reference to the respective judgments of the Court.

Ending his speech, President Arslan pointed to the need for constitutional justice so as to curb the excessive political power and maintain peaceful coexistence of people by protecting fundamental rights and liberties.

International Conference on “Constitutional-Judicial Protection of the Freedom of Thought and Public Expression of Thought”

President Arslan participated in the International Conference on “Constitutional-Judicial Protection of the Freedom of Thought and Public Expression of Thought”, which was held on 15 March 2024 on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia and delivered a speech titled “Freedom of Expression in the Case-Law of the Turkish Constitutional Court”. Starting his speech by highlighting that as thinking and speaking beings, we needed freedom of expression to realise ourselves, President Arslan stated that the denial of this freedom would therefore infringe the essential nature of human beings.

He also noted that since modern society was inevitably pluralist, it required the co-existence of different and often conflicting ways of life, ideas and ideologies, and that freedom of expression was an effective instrument for nurturing and maintaining such a diverse and plural society and politics. Stating that it was impossible to cure philosophical and political diseases without protecting the right to freedom of thought and expression, he pointed to the necessity to effectively protect the freedom of thought and expression.

President Arslan, stating that the Court consistently pointed out that the freedom of expression constituted one of the basic pillars of a plural democratic society, also noted “For the Court, the freedom of expression is necessary not only for a pluralist political and civil society, but also a precondition of realising ourselves as moral agents”.

Expressing that the Court was interpreting and appying the constitutional provisions concerning freedom of expression in a strict and vigilant manner, President Arslan also stated:

“In both areas of constitutionality review and individual application, the Court has adopted what I call “a right(s)-based” paradigm which requires us to interpret the constitutional provisions in favour of freedoms. The rights-based paradigm assumes that freedom is the rule and restriction is the exception. This paradigm reflects the combination of two interrelated meanings of the word “right”. First, as we all know, the term “right” means “justice” or “fairness”. Second, “right” usually refers to the enjoyment of something, as in the example of the right to life, or the right to property. So, we can define the rights-based paradigm as the one that aims to protect rights by ensuring constitutional justice”.

President Arslan, providing information on the method adopted by the Court in evaluating the restrictions on the freedom of expression, noted “The Court applies a three-level test provided by Article 13 of the Constitution in evaluating the restrictions on the freedom of expression. First of all, an act of parliament is necessary to impose restrictions on the freedom of expression. Secondly, the restrictions must pursue certain legitimate aims such as the protection of public security and the rights and liberties of others. Finally, the restrictions must be proportionate and necessary in a democratic society. In this regard, the Court has invoked the conceptions of “pressing social need” and “proportionality” in deciding whether an impugned restriction constitutes a violation of the freedom of expression”. He cited a few examples of how these tests were applied in the case-law of the Court.

Concluding his speech, President Arslan noted that the Court played a crucial role in maintaining the values of toleration, pluralism and open-mindedness, which were the distinctive features of a democratic society, and expressed his sincere belief that the constitutional courts, as indispensable institutions of constitutional democracy, would continue to protect the freedom of thought and expression.

Click for the full text of the speech delivered by President Zühtü Arslan at the International Conference held on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Constitutional Court of North Macedonia.

Click for the full text of the speech delivered by President Zühtü Arslan at the International Balkan University.