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Chapter: 

IV. Governance issues

E-government

The Ministry of Finance prepared and issued a Communiqué on Electronic Invoice and Electronic Commercial Books in 2008. However, it is not yet commonly used by Turkish companies because of a complicated IT infrastructure that is still in an integration phase.

The Ministry of Finance has also implemented a nationwide communications network to streamline administrative workflows and allow citizens to submit their tax returns online.1 The system connects 599 offices -- including tax offices, regional finance offices, and tax inspector offices -- of the Revenue Administration. Citizens can submit tax returns via the Internet and can call up their tax file online whenever they want. All tax data is centrally stored in a data warehouse system, and access to the system is secured by the use of digital signatures and encrypted data transfer via a Public Key Infrastructure. The project also stipulates establishing the necessary IT infrastructure for the creation of a call centre.2

Other infrastructure related to the Ministry of Finance includes the "e-Declaration" application, which provides acceptance of declarations, announcements and appendices via the Internet. Integration and data exchange with external systems such as banks is also provided. Another application is the "Internet Tax Office" of the Revenue Administration, which enables taxpayers to follow their tax transactions such as accrual tax, payments in, etc. These applications are all parts of the Tax Offices Automation Project (VEDOP).3

In line with the Electronic Signature Act, the Ministry of Justice declared that documents will no longer be circulated physically among the judicial units after 1 July 2008. All documents are required to be sent in the electronic environment, signed by e-signature.

There is a project, carried out within UYAP, called "Expert System Portal Development Project" which aims to develop a web-based expert system portal.4 In this Project, the user will be able to access information about which route to follow, how much to pay in fees, and what the costs will be during the course of the lawsuit. It enables the user to access the decisions of similar cases when she/he enters the keywords and the required parameters that will appear on the screen concerning the law suit involved. Reports of similar cases will be extracted together with related statistical information; the number of lawsuits filed according to the topics; the duration of lawsuits; the number of claims that are accepted, partially accepted, and rejected; the legal costs, the quantity of amendments, the amount of money paid to defendants, etc.

In a quite recent development, after reaching an agreement with the GSM operators, text messages containing information about the case files can be sent to the parties who need to be warned when to attend the court. In order to subscribe to this service, citizens should send a SMS with their ID number, type the required word "abone" and then send it to tel. No. 4060.

In addition to this, after completing the test stage, courts and other judicial units were equipped with "video and audio recording," and "video conferencing systems". These systems were tested in Ankara Courthouse, the biggest court in Turkey, and were rolled out in 225 "heavy" criminal courts. "Heavy" Criminal courts consist of a presiding judge and two members with a public prosecutor. Offences and crimes involving a penalty of over five years of imprisonment are under the jurisdiction of these courts, of which there is at least one in every city. The court is sometimes divided into several branches according to need and population.

Open government

A Law on the Right to Information5 was officially published in October 2003 and went into effect on 24 April 2004.6 The law allows the public to request information from government agencies. It provides for the withholding of confidential private information, and the review of disputed information requests by a Turkish Right to Information Review Council (Bilgi Edinme DeÄŸerlendirme Kuruluor, or BEDK), as well as a right to sue for any losses deriving from the illegal action.

Appeals of withholdings are made to the BEDK; its jurisdiction was originally limited to cases relating to national security and state economic interests but the law was amended in November 2005 to allow appeals in all cases. BEDK received 2,475 appeals through March 2007. Due to the efforts of Turkish pressure group BilgiEdinmeHakki.org, BEDK began publishing its decisions as of April 2007.7 Appeals can then be made to the administrative courts.

The Law on the Right to Information was amended in 2006 to enable citizens to dispute all decisions of state agencies regarding denials of requests for information. Public organisations are making use of the new legislation.

A total of 1,886,962 right to information requests were made between 2004 and 2006 in Turkey.8 In fact, the overall number of applications in Turkey is higher than most countries in the world.9 The application process is gradually evolving and it indicates the sensitivity of Turkish people to the issue of open government.

In 2006, Turkey adopted a law for the establishment of an Ombudsman that the European Union believed would help fight corruption, increase transparency, and allow better control of military spending; however, President Sezer vetoed the law before its enactment in July 2006.10 Following Turkey's election on 22 July 2007, the EU stated that passage of the Ombudsman's bill should be a top priority of the new government.11

The pressure on government seems to have finally paid off and the recent Constitution package, which will be held in referendum, has made the ombudsman institution a priority.

Other developments

No specific information has been provided under this section.

Non-government organisations' advocacy work

No specific information has been provided under this section

International obligations and International cooperation

Turkey has signed and ratified the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its First Optional Protocol that establishes an individual complaint mechanism.12

Turkey is member of the Council of Europe and has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.13 It signed the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention No. 108) in 1981 but has not yet ratified it.14 On a positive note, the Ministry of Transport stated that a delegate from the government will soon be heading to Strasbourg to sign the Convention on Cybercrime and that the Government is willing to ratify the Convention rapidly, in order to maintain and sustain cross-border co-operation on cybercrime.15

In November 2006, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey infringed the right to privacy of a human rights defender whose premises were searched and whose private professional materials were seized without the requisite authorisation. Taner Kılıç is a board member of the Izmir branch of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER). In June 1999 the now-defunct Ankara State Security Court issued a warrant authorising the search of the headquarters and branches of MAZLUM-DER in order to collect evidence concerning certain acts by the association, allegedly carried out against the "integrity of the country and the secular regime." Maintaining that the situation was urgent, the public prosecutor extended the scope of the search warrant and ordered the search of the homes and offices of the association's general director and board members.16

Subsequently, when communicating the search orders issued by the State Security Court and the public prosecutor to the governors, the undersecretary of the Ministry of the Interior specified that not only the homes and offices of the general director and board members should be searched but also the premises of all branch board members. During the search of Kılıç's home, the police confiscated two videotapes and photocopied various documents taken from his office. Kılıç complained about the search and the seizure of his property.17 According to Orhan Kemal Cengiz, lawyer for the applicant, "[t]his case shows that it is high time to think about the rights of human rights defenders", and the decision urges Turkey to revise practices such as frequent house and office searches and property seizure used against human rights defenders.18

Turkey has been a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since 1961.

Turkey has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights19 and adopted the UN Convention on Fight against Corruption, which entered into force in May 2006.

With the motivation and the back wind of EU accession talks in the mid 2000's, the Turkish government accelerated its legalisation actions and drafted several laws, based on related EU regulations such as the Commercial Code, the Data Protection Code, and others. Even though these codes have not yet been enacted, they can be seen as an "alternative" adaptation of EU laws into the Turkish legal system by making the required modifications.

Footnotes