Despite Progress, Turkey Still Not Doing Enough on Human Rights

Subcommittee on Human Rights discussed on 25th of October the human rights situation in Turkey. While progress on several human rights issues was welcomed, it was stressed that a lot needs still to be done.[:] 

Discussion on the human rights situation in the country is a regular activity of the Subcommittee to monitor Turkey’s endeavours to fulfil the Copenhagen political criteria for accession to the EU.

The discussion aims to analyse the overall situation in the country as it is in the EU’s interest, as well as that of the Turkish people, to follow up closely human rights developments in the country, Chairwoman Hautala noted. In this line, the members of the Subcommittee called for the opening of the human rights negotiations under Chapter 23 without further undue delay.

While wide range of issues was discussed, most attention was given to the situation of freedom of expression and the media, freedom of religion, the rights of ethnic minorities and ill-treatment in police custody. Moreover, conscientious objectors to military service face severe prosecution.

Despite Ambassador of Turkey assuring the members of the Subcommittee that no legal restriction to limit the use the Kurdish language is in place, particular concern was expressed over the ability to use Kurdish language in schools and other public institutions and the rights of the Kurdish minority in general.

Chairwoman welcomed the landmark decision in a torture case from June 2010, which ordered heavy sentences for nine prison and police officers for the torture death of Engin Çeber. This is certainly another big step forward in the combat against impunity, torture and ill-treatment, she noted.

However, despite increase in public debate and amendments to the overly restrictive legislative provisions, many journalists remain under prosecution or face harassment. Chairwoman expressed particular concern over the case of human rights defender Doğan Akhanlı from Cologne who on 10 August 2010 was arrested at an Istanbul airport on a trip to his sick father. He has apparently been detained since 20 August 2010 on the pretext of alleged involvement in a 1989 robbery but proceedings against him seem to be motivated by his human rights work. The subcommittee will continue to follow his and other cases closely, Chairwoman added.

In despite of recent improvements in the national legislation, serious human rights violations still take place. The legal reform strengthening equality and civil liberties as well as reinforcing the functioning and independence of the judiciary were welcomed but it was underlined that success rests now on the effective implementation of the new provisions.