Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Human rights in Turkey: still a long way to go

26 October 2010

Meeting yesterday in Brussels between European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee, NGO and Turkish permanent ambassador to the EU

European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee held an exchange of views with NGO representatives and the Turkish permanent ambassador to the EU in a meeting in Brussels yesterday.

The meeting came just ahead of the publication on 9 November of the European Commission's progress report on Turkey's accession negotiations. The Commission representative at the hearing said "the situation has changed for the better in the last 12 years but there continue to be systematic failures to comply with human rights and the political criteria for accession".

The chair of the EP Delegation to Turkey, Helene Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), welcomed the fact that the new constitutional reform in Turkey was so widely endorsed by society. On the other hand she stressed that amending the existing legal framework could not be the definitive solution. "I would very much support a totally new constitution process, different from the current text, which is anyway the outcome of a coup d'état", she said.

She was endorsed by the EP rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL), who also stressed the continuous threat to press freedom. "Penal law is still used to prosecute journalists and more than 6000 websites have been closed down. This doesn't fit with the modern society Turkey wants to become", she said.

"Amnesty International is constantly receiving credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees from prisons, from police detention facilities or even at peaceful demonstrations", said Amnesty representative Andrew Gardner. Hélène Flautre added that the main problem was impunity: over 400 government staff had been accused of ill treatment but none of these cases had resulted in convictions.

"The military forces continue to play an important role, which is incompatible with a modern state" said Ana Gomes (PES, PT), referring to the fact that objection to military service is banned in Turkey and conscientious objectors still face repeated criminal sanctions.