III. Abant Platform "Legal Democratic State"
As a group of academics and intellectuals, we came together at Bolu/Abant on July 21-23 2000 . We discussed solutions to the problems of infringements of human rights, the south-eastern question, torture, unsolved murder cases, and the freedom to live according to one's beliefs, etc., which occupy an important place in the national agenda. We decided to submit these to public attention, taking attachment to the principle of constructing a democratic state ruled by law as our starting point, and in conformity with the following principles.
1) A democratic state ruled by law accepts the will of society, within the framework of the principle of the supremacy of law and basic rights and freedoms, and derives its legitimacy from these universal values.
2) A democratic state ruled by law stands at an equal distance from all systems of belief and thought, and ways of life depending on them, which do not encompass violence.
3) A democratic state ruled by law depends on the idea of a social contract. This guarantees the basic rights and freedoms of all the elements within a differentiated society, the latter being a natural phenomenon.
4) Islam is no obstacle to the existence of a democratic state ruled by law.
5) In the solution of all the economic, political, administrative, social and cultural questions which our country faces, the establishment of a democratic state ruled by law, in its fullest sense, should be a basic aim. From this standpoint, even though some serious faults and deficiencies remain, the gains which Turkey has made so far in the process of democratisation should not be ignored. In fact, following the Ottoman constitutional projects, which were aimed at restricting arbitrary state power by means of a constitution, our Republic has become progressively more democratic.
6) The establishment of a democratic state ruled by law constitutes a prior condition to allow different sections of society, with different views of the world or cultural characteristics to live together in a peaceful manner, and to allow the realisation of a common citizenship to develop. Within this framework, it is essential that no individual or group should be alienated from politics or public life.
7) Although the steps to be taken in this direction are important because Turkey must remain faithful to its international undertakings regarding human rights and democratisation, essentially this is a problem relating to the existence, harmony and order of Turkish society itself.
8) Our country urgently needs a new and civilian constitution. Within this framework, we support civil initiatives and the idea that citizens should compose their own constitutional proposals. It is essential that the civil and democratic constitutional initiative be completed by the improvement of basic laws, chiefly those relating to our legislation regarding political parties, elections, and the Penal Code.
9) The safeguarding of civil and political freedoms is an indispensable condition for the establishment of a democratic state ruled by law. In this context, it should be a basic principle that all schools of thought should be freely expressed and organised, on condition that they do not use violence or openly advocate its use.
10) No state institution should ignore the principle of the supremacy of law in any of its executive acts, by appealing to the notion of 'reasons of state'. In democracies, the state has no legitimate existence outside or above the law.
11) A democratic state ruled by law cannot be reconciled with the idea of the absolute sovereignty of the will of the majority. Even pluralist democratic systems have no right to abolish basic freedoms or the guarantees provided by a state ruled by law.
12) Protecting and developing democracy does not mean maintaining official institutions unchanged, but protecting democratic administration and institutions, and reconstructing them. The way to overcome our problems in the public domain is not to postpone democracy, but to enlarge the sphere of democratic politics.
13) In a democratic state ruled by law there can be no abandonment of the principle of the independence and neutrality of the judiciary. In should be a basic principle that those who are responsible for implementing the law should not act in accordance with political or ideological considerations.
14) Possession by the state of a large part of the economic wealth of the country creates opportunities for arbitrary interventions by governments. This can constitute a threat to these basic freedoms, besides being one of the causes of political deterioration. For the health of democracy, it is extremely important that the concept should be established among citizens of the moral obligation to pay taxes, and that public authorities should be transparent in their expenditures and be held accountable for them. In this connection, an important goal to be achieved is that the state should remove defects in the distribution of income, in accordance with social justice.
15) An administrative reform is necessary which will construct a participatory administration making local communities partners in the system, at the level of province, district, town and village, in place of the present centralised, clumsy and bureaucratic administration, and within the concept of a unitary state.
16) One of the factors which damages democracy is that the media, which are an important element in a democratic system,
use their power as an instrument to advance their economic and business interests, which have nothing to do with their democratic functions, and publish or broadcast items infringing the principles of press morality and neutrality.
17) Monopolisation of ownership of the media, their entry into shady relationships with the state, and their tendency to influence the judicial process, cannot be reconciled with the concept of a democratic state ruled by law.
18) In a democratic state ruled by law, the authority to take political decisions belongs to the democratically elected representatives of the people. The civil service and the military have the sole job of putting into effect policies defined by democratic methods.
Prof. Dr. Mustafa Erdogan
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Altan
Prof. Dr. Hayrettin Karaman
Prof. Dr. M. Akif Aydin
Prof. Dr. Burhan Kuzu
Prof. Dr. Ali Bardakoglu
Prof. Dr. Nevzat Yalcintas
Doc. Dr. Abdullah Gul
Doc. Dr. Suleyman Akdemir
Doc. Dr. Davut Dursun
Dr. M. Ali Kilicbay
Dr. Cuneyt Ulsever
Prof. Dr. Mete Tuncay
Prof. Dr. Mehmet S. Aydin
Prof. Dr. A. Yuksel Ozemre
Prof. Dr. Niyazi Oktem
Prof. Dr. Ilhami Guler
Prof. Dr. Salih Akdemir
Prof. Dr. Bekir Karliga
Doc. Dr. Mehmet Pacaci
Doc. Dr. Omer Ozsoy
Doc. Dr. Hayri Kirbasoglu
Doc. Dr. Emin Koktas
Doc. Dr. Omer Caha
Doc. Dr. Durmus Hocaoglu
Doc. Dr. Huseyin Celik
Dr. Tahsin Gorgun
Nevzat Kosoglu 21-23 July 2000
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