The Foundatıons of Turkısh Law

Towards the end of the 1900’s, many European countries codified much of their law both public and private. On the other hand, in the Anglo Saxon countries the notion of uncodified law prevailed, and many rules are derived from customary laws and judicial precedents. Turkey has followed many European countries and codification of many European laws. Legislative branch has become the most important foundation of the Turkish law.

The Foundatıons of Turkısh Law


The order or pattern of rules that society uses to govern the conduct of individuals and their relationships is called law[1]. Law keeps society running smoothly and efficently. Law consists of the body of principles that govern conduct and that can be enforced in court or by administrative agencies. The law could also be described as a multitude of rights. A right is a legal capacity to require anothor person to perform or refrain from performing an act. Our rights flow from the Turkish Constitution, statutes and ordinances.

The foundation of the Turkish law of a current legal system may be found in Roman law or practices or moral laws applied in bygone ages. Until the 12th century, law in the western world operated on several primary levels. Collections of written laws such as the Augustinian Code or the Code of Charlemagne(both traceable to Roman law) created a broad written legal framework[2]. This basic system still prevails in many European countries and is known as the “civil” law[3].

Towards the end of the 1900’s, many European countries codified much of their law both public and private. On the other hand, in the Anglo Saxon countries the notion of uncodified law prevailed, and many rules are derived from customary laws and judicial precedents. Turkey has followed many European countries and codification of many European laws. Legislative branch has become the most important foundation of the Turkish law.


The foundations of the Turkish law may be written or unwritten rules. The written rules may be classified in to six categories. There is only one unwritten law ın Turkish system. It is called “customary law”. We will examine the foundations of the Turkish written law first. These are as follows;

A. The Written Laws

The foundations of the Turkish written law is classified in seven categories[4]. These are constitution, statutory law, international treaty, statutory decrees, regulations, by-laws, court decisions and doctrine.

1. The Constitution

The term “constitution” refers to either the structure of the government and ıts relation to the people within ıts sphere of power or the written document setting forth that structure. A constitution is a body of principles that establishes the structure of government and the relationship of that government to people who are governed. Constitutional law is the branch of law that is based on the constitution for a particular level of government. The Turkish Constitution sets forth not only the structure and powers of government but also the limitations on those powers. Turkey has a prominent place among today’s developing countries by the length of its experience.

The Turkish Constitution establishes a tripartite government: a legislative branch to make the laws, an executive branch to execute the laws, and ajudicial branch to interpret the laws. The Turkish Constitution provides that the Turkish Parliament[5] has sole authority to enact laws for application throughout Turkey. The 7th Article of the Turkish Constitution provides that “legislative power is vested in the Turkish Parliament. Members of the Turkish Parliament are popularly elected by the Turkish citizens for a term of five years.

According to the Turkish Constitution, the basic characteristics of the Turkish Republic have been described as “a democratic, secular, and social state governed by the rule of law, in accordance with the concepts of social peace, national solidarity, and justice; respectful of human rights…”

The supremacy of the constitution is expressed clearly in the 11 the Article of the Turkish Constitution which states that “laws shall not be in conflict with the constitution.

2. The Statutory Law

The expression “law” is ordinarily used to indicate a statute enacted by the Turkish Parliament[6]. The statutory law includes this legislative acts declaring, commanding, or prohibiting conduct. Statutes are applied in all parts of Turkey and all Turkish citizens, and aligns are subject to them. An act of the Turkish Parliament to provide leave for officers medical needs is an example of a statutory law.

Statutes are applied until they are abrogated or changed by a new statute. The Turkish Paliament permits both making new laws and abrogating old ones and is an essential instrument for the regulation of modern social life. The Turkish Parliament has become the most important foundation of law.

Bills may be introduced either by the Council of Ministers or by members of the Turkish Parliament. The statute passed by the Turkish Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic within fifteen days. The President may, within the same period, refer the law back to the parliament for reconsideration. If the parliament again passes the statute in its original version(without new amendments), the President has to promulgate it.

3. International Treaty
The foundation of the Turkish law also includes treaties made by the Turkish Republican. International Treaties to which Turkey is a party are approved by the Turkish Parliament by enactment of a law. Technically, therefore, international treaties are statutes become enforceable after their publication in the Offical Gazette. Some international treaties become binding without the official approval of the Turkish Parliament such as economic, commercial and technical treaties(The Constitution 90.m)

4. The Statutory Decrees

The Turkish Parliament may authorize the Council of Minister by special statute, to issue statutory decrees on certain topics[7]. In these special statutes the scope, principles, and duration of the power to issue statutory decrees are clearly stated. Statutory decrees become enforceable on the day of their publication in the Offical Gazette, and they are submitted for the review and approval of the Turkish Parliament on the day of their publication. Statutory Decrees cannot subject to the fundamental liberties and political rights of individuals.

5. Regulations

The Council of Ministers has the power to make regulations that regulate for enforcement of statutes[8]. According to the Turkish Contitution, such regulations must have been examined by the Council of State, signed by the President of Republican and promulgated in the same manner as statutes. Regulations cannot contain provisions contrary to statutes. In the hierarchy of laws, therefore regulations come after statutes and contain more concrete rules than statutes.

6. By- Laws

Late in the last century, a new type of governmental structure began to develop to meet the highly specialized needs of government regulation of life. An administrative agency is a government body charged with administering and implementing legislation. An administrative agency may be prime ministry, the ministries, and public corporate bodies such as universities and municipalities. These administrative agencies have the power to make “by laws”[9], in conformity with statutes and regulations in order to regulate a particular segment of life or business.

By laws adopted by these agencies may be intended to interpret or clarify the statute and regulation.

7. Court Decisions

Courts have been created to hear and resolve legal disputes. A court’s specfic power is defined by its jurisdiction. Courts of original jurisdiction are trial court, and courts that review the decisions of trial courts are appellate courts. Turkish courts are bound to make their decisions in conformity with the statutory law, the function of the judiciary being to interpret and apply the law.

In Turkey certain precedents are follower. Thus lower trial courts are bound by some decisions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court in turn is bound by some of ıts own decisions.

8. Doctrine

Doctrine is a subsidiary foundations of Turkish law. The research of the legal authority, or jurist, is to discover by logical analysis the several possible interpretations of laws and to indicate their practical consequences. The studies of juristic are not an independent “source of law”, although in some cases juristic opinion leads to the formation of law.

B. Unwritten Laws: Customary Law

As unwritten law, we will examine customary law. Customary law may give us some insights into the development of law. Written laws have mainly developed from customary law. Customary law constituted and observed course of conduct of the society.

For a customary law to have legal validity in the Turkish system. It must be (1) antiquity, (2) countinuity, (3) popular belief in rightness of a custom law, (4) state sanction, (5) agreement with statutory law. In the first Article of the Turkish Civil Code states that “… there is no applicable provisions, the judge should decide according to existing customary law….”.


Turkish law consists of the pattern of rules established by society to govern conducy and relationships. These rules can be expressed as constitutional provisions, statutes, administrative regulations, and case decisions. Law can be classified as substantive or procedural, and it can be described in terms of its historical origins, by the subject to which it relates, or in terms of law or equity.

The foundations of the Turkish law include constitutions, statutes, administrative regulations, bylaws, court decisions, doktrine, and customary law.

* Gazi Üniversity Economics & Administrative Faculty, Çorum/TURKEY
[1] . OVACIK, M., English & Turkish Law Dictionary, 1986, s.196.
[2] . ELİAS, Stephan/LEVİNKİND, Susan., Legal Research, How to Find & Understand The Law, 1999 US, s.3.
[3] . A legal tradition called the “common law”, quite different from that of the civil law, developed in England after the Norman conquest in 1066.
[4] . GÜRİZ, A., Introduction to Turkish Law, “ Sources of Turkish Law”, 1987, s. 6 vd.
[5] . Turkish Parliament is called “the Turkish Grand National Assembly”
[6] . GÜRİZ 7.
[7] . GÜRİZ 8.
[8] . OVACIK 272.
[9] . OVACIK 51.

Outhor: Yrd. Doç. Dr. Mustafa CAN

Alternative Dispute Resolutions in Turkish Law

Alternative Dispute Resolutions in Turkish Law
In this article, historical background of Alternative Dispute Resolutions and its legal position in Turkish law are examined.
Law in Ottoman Empire
Ottoman legal system accepted the Religious law over its subjects. The Ottoman Empire was always organized around a system of local jurisprudence. Legal administration in the Ottoman Empire was part of a larger scheme of balancing central and local authority. The jurisdictional complexity of the Ottoman Empire was aimed to permit the integration of culturally and religiously different groups. The Ottoman system had three court systems: one for Muslims, one for non-Muslims, involving appointed Jews and Christians ruling over their respective religious communities, and the “trade court”.

The entire system was regulated from above by means of the administrative Kanun, i.e. laws, a system based upon the Turkic Yasa and Töre which were developed in the pre-Islamic era. The kanun law system, on the other hand, was the secular law of the sultan, and dealt with issues not clearly addressed by the sharia system.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions – Ottoman Period
Law Sources for Alternative Dispute Resolutions
Legitimacy for settlement consists of Koran, Behaviours of Mohammed and interpretations of Islamic schools. According to court records, settlements are defined as “Allah’s great expectation from the people” referring to the verse of the Koran which states “settlement is the best award among the other awards.

Methods of Settlements
To the Islamic law books, in case of parties have dispute, there are 2 ways for settlement to resort. The first one is to settle the dispute without resorting to the court. It’s always possible for the parties to resort this way which does not require any procedure or any guidance. Bear in the mind that these settlements are generally referring to acknowledgments.

The second one is the way of the settlement which can be implemented by Ottoman lawyers in accordance to a particular form and system. As compared to the first way, negotiations between parties initially take place at the court and thereafter resume outside the court. According to this procedure, parties participate in the hearings which are governed by judge. In case that parties don’t bring any final evidences judge may call them to settle the dispute by themselves. Thereafter, the settlement procedure commences.

Call for the settlement must be made in advance of the court decision. Because after the decision, it would constitute complexity to reach a settlement again. Call for the settlement must be done for twice and it can’t exceed more than 2 times in order to prevent abeyance of the case. If the parties don’t approach for the settlement, judge may conclude the proceeding.

Subject Matters of Settlements
Subject matters of settlements are in connection with the obligations, the claims, compensations and blood money which emanates from murder. Criminal cases such as adultery and drinking alcohol can’t be settled by any instrument of resolution. This clear distinction in regard to subject matters of settlements can be inferred from the records of Ottoman Courts. Generally judge calls both parties to the court in case that defendant rejects the personal actions against him. Inheritance law also falls in the scope of settlement.

Mediators for the settlement in Ottoman State
The second stage of settlement may commence in case of acceptance of judge’s proposal by both parties. In this stage, independent mediators (Muslihun Muslimuns) comes up in order to reach a consensus with respect to the dispute. Muslihun Muslimuns consist of three adult males, but considering the records of the period there is no detailed information indicating their qualifications. It’s assumed that those mediators were selected from among the people who are well respected and also confidential in the society. The mediators hold meetings with the parties and seek for a settlement. Participation of the mediators such as witnesses to the meetings prevents the claims in respect of non-existence of the settlement.

Conclusions of the Settlement
Settlements can be concluded in several ways. Firstly, the debt in concerned with the dispute can be paid cash. But, generally paid off money amounts to less than the demand of applicant from the defendant. The other way of conclusion is to pay the debt in exchange of assets. Moreover, some of the settlements can be concluded by the means of abdication. In this case, the applicant must abdicate from his/her claims over the defendant and this abdication must be recorded in the form of a concrete document. Generally, the cases related to inheritance epitomizes to this way of conclusion. According to Ottoman Law, the only method to settle the dispute which arises from the criminal actions such as battery, hurting, theft is abdication.

Conclusion in the Alternative Dispute Resolution in Ottoman State
There is no definite information indicates us how many cases had been resolved by the method in the foregoing mentioned. Despite of this fact, there is an elaborated court record in Balikesir city of Turkey. According to this record, 12 of 61 cases had been concluded by the method of settlement in pais which amounts to 20 percent of the cases.

As a conclusion, during 17th and 18th century of Ottoman Empire, settlements in pais had been played an important role to facilitate and reduce the workload of the courts. At intervals, Ottoman intellectuals and thinkers encouraged the people to resort amicable settlements. After the establishment of modern “Nizamiye Courts” in 1870, law-maker preserved the concerning procedures by codifying them under the terms of “amicable settlement” and “release of debt”.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions in Modern Turkey
ADR In the Terms of Private Law
In Civil Code
Considering the actual legislation, article 213 of code of civil procedure states that “in every instance of the case, judge may call the parties or their attorneys to hear their declarations and he/she may encourage settle a dispute in case that there is an obvious hope for the settlement between the parties.

In Consumer Rights Law
Article 22 of the law on the protection of consumers’ rights law had been amended in 2003 in accordance to concerning EU directive. According to this article, concerning ministry must establish arbitration committees to settle the disputes which arise from the complaints of the consumers. Citizens should apply to these committees if the amount of consumer dispute is below 500 Turkish Liras. The decisions of the committees are binding for the parties. The decisions of the committees can be carried out under the law of enforcement and bankruptcy. Within the 15 days of the decision’s announcement, parties may object to the court but they can’t cease the execution of the judgment. In the case of an objection, consumer rights courts will examine the issue.

ADR In the Terms of Penal Law
According to Turkish Penal Law, parties of the settlement can be either real person or legal entity and it exists for the crimes which require civil claim. There are 27 particular crimes under this category. Moreover, the law on protection of the children lays down the particular crimes committing by the children.

ADR in Penal Procedure
According to Code of Penal Procedure, the dispute can be settled during the investigation section of the case and also prosecution section of the case. Considering the features of the crime if the conditions for the settlement are fulfilled, the prosecutor must try to settle the dispute.

To commence the settlement procedure firstly, the perpetrator must accept the crime and its liability and the damages must be compensated by him/her. Finally, the convicted should accept the settlement proposal. Besides, prosecutor or judge may appoint lawyers among from the bar association for the parties if they can’t reach to an accord with the selection of their lawyers who will settle the dispute.

There is no definite provision in the Code of Penal Procedure indicates the role of the mediator. But it can be inferred from the spirit of article 253 of the code that the role of mediators must be active and responsible for striking balance among the parties of the dispute.