Andrew Le Sueur reports on IACL Istanbul roundtable 28-29 April

The IACL (of which the UK Constitutional Law Group is an affiliated body) holds two round tables a year. I’m just back from the first of 2011, held at Marmara University, on the subject of “Renewal of the constitution: constituent power within the framework of the constitutional legal order’s continuity”. It was organised by Professor Ibraham Ő Kaboğlu, a leading constitutional law scholar who stood trial following the publication of a 2004 report by Human Rights Advisory Board.

It was no surprise that the general backdrop to the conference (attended by over 200 attentive and engaged law students as well as academics) was the tensions between military and civil power in the 1982 constitution (drawn up after the coup); between secularism and the place of Islam in public life; and the Kurdish question.

More specifically, speakers dealt with a wide range of issues arising from the March 2010 package of constitutional reforms put to Parliament by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). Almost all were approved – but not by the super-majority of the unicameral parliament needed to avoid a referendum. Scrutiny by the Turkish Constitution Court followed, which annulled several proposed amendments. In September 2010, the reform package was supported in a referendum. Since then, further controversial changes have been passed amending the make-up and powers of the judiciary. In relation to electoral laws, the ten per cent threshold for representation in Parliament continues to be debated, notwithstanding the European Court of Human Rights’ 2008 ruling that this (the highest in Europe) was not contrary to Convention rights.

The next roundtable is 23-26 October 2011 in Xi’an, China, on the constitutional protection of rights to social security.

Andrew Le Sueur is co-convenor of the UK Constitutional Law Group and Professor of Public Law at Queen Mary, University of London.