- Published: May 20, 2016
Turkey: Improved Court Expert System
Project Leader: Rainer Dopp
RTA: Hans-Peter Schmieszek
Responsible at the IRZ: Rita Tenhaft, Christine Stiller, Dr. Julie Trappe, Johannes Schlicht
After a term of 30 months, the EU Twinning project entitled "Improved Court Expert System" came to a successful conclusion in June 2015. The Turkish court expert system was and still is one of the major problems facing the Turkish justice system. When the project commenced at the beginning of 2013, it was estimated that court experts were being appointed in approx. 80 percent of civil proceedings, roughly 40 percent of criminal proceedings and about 15 percent of administrative proceedings, in some cases also several expert reports and without sufficiently examining their evidentiary relevance.
The first phase of the project consisted of an analysis of the system of court experts in Turkey concerning motor vehicle accidents, construction defects, medical malpractice and industrial accidents. Subsequently, a scheme for improved practice was developed and tested in practice at five Pilot Courts in Istanbul, Antalya, Manisa, Samsun and Urfa. It became clear that judges and public prosecutors would not change their practice when it came to commissioning court experts until there was a change in the case-law practice of the Supreme Court and they did not need to fear that their judgments would be set aside because they had not commissioned expert reports.
The project thus focussed on the approach of creating an appropriate awareness of the problem among judges in the Supreme Court, and hence bringing about a change in the procedural principles in the Supreme Court. To this end, many regional and supra-regional congresses, symposia and seminars were carried out at which the European standards were illustrated and discussed, in particular for the taking of evidence by experts, the selection of experts and the standards of expert reports. The IRZ organised study visits of Turkish delegations to Germany, Austria, Sweden and France. A change in the practice of the Supreme Court can now be observed.
As the project continued, more than 600 members of the judiciary and experts have been trained and certified as trainers, with the aim in mind that they should act as multipliers in future. All in all, more than 550 counselling days have been provided in the project with a budget of 1.5 million Euro.
In addition to the courts, the professional chambers and experts' associations have been involved in the discussion. The talks between the professional chambers, the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice in this regard focussed on the selection, qualification, certification, further training and monitoring of experts, as well as on the structures of expert reports. There was considerable willingness on the part of the organisations to help bring about improvements.
The Turkish Government is maintaining sustained efforts to reform the court expert system, and in order to do so established a research commission in February, which submitted a draft Court Expert Act at the beginning of May on the basis of the preliminary work that was carried out. This draft stipulates the central principles of the court expert system and provides for a system for approving expert witnesses as court experts. The new Act is to come into force as per 1 July 2016.