In the last 10 years, Turkey has been struggling with a significant deterioration in its rule of law, as evidenced by the major indices measuring freedom and rule of law around the world. Freedom House, the World Justice Project, the Fraser Institute, and the Economist Intelligence Unit have all downgraded Turkey in terms of the country’s rule of law, freedom of speech, democracy, and human rights performance since 2010. In the latest Rule of Law Index by World Justice Project, Turkey scored below Russia, China, and Iran.
Freedom Research Association (FRA), an Atlas Network partner based in Ankara, addresses this issue with a one-of-a-kind training program investing in the next generation of rule of law defenders in Turkey.
In the first phase of its “Rule of Law Academy,” the organization brings together the country’s best known legal minds and young mid-career legal professionals in a “Liberty Fund” style colloquium, with an intensive debate on the historical importance of rule of law, its roots, and the current challenges facing the system. After the colloquium, participants are enrolled in a one-on-one mentorship process with the professors, at the end of which they are expected to produce a high-quality academic paper addressing current problems with the existing system.
“In Freedom Research Association, our primary mission is to come up with policy proposals that advance liberty and prosperity in Turkey,” said Medeni Sungur, executive director of Freedom Research Association. “That means our everyday work is largely concerned with the Overton Window of today. However, no reform attempt can prevail in the long run if it does not receive widespread support from the society. That’s why, for our proposals to be sustainable, we need to pay equal attention to cultivating a cultural climate that upholds rule of law and cherishes liberty.”
FRA’s four colloquia hosted 75 participants in four of the largest cities in Turkey. It targeted primarily young legal professionals – with a minimum of three years of experience – and law students since they will become the future judges, prosecutors, and law professors. FRA aims to cultivate a greater network among its alumni in the coming years that would strengthen the bonds and disposition of those defending liberties and the rule of law in Turkey.
"It’s of utmost importance to have judges, prosecutors, and lawyers in our legal system that understand at a deeper level why ‘rule of law’ is the basis of modern society and should be defended on an everyday basis, primarily by legal professionals,” continued Sungur. “Luckily, our country has a longstanding constitutional tradition that can inspire solutions to our current problems”
FRA’s Rule of Law Academy has received much positive feedback from participants and the general audience. By design, this project has primarily targeted participants with a strong background in law. However, rule of law is not a topic that is confined to jurists. FRA has received so many applications from undergraduate students and people from other backgrounds that it is now preparing a Massive Open Online Course of its Academy, which it hopes will facilitate many more participants in the coming years.
“Turkey is a country the size of Germany which has deep historical ties with Europe and the US,” continued Sungur. “Its immediate physical environment contributes to the challenges it is facing internally. We believe that the only way our country becomes more prosperous and stronger in addressing these problems is by strengthening its rule of law system and through stronger protection of liberties.”
Freedom Research Association has received a grant from Atlas Network for the expansion of its Rule of Law Academy.