Turkey’s Human Rights Criticized

WASHINGTON–Turkey has made progress on human rights over the last year–but problems remain–said Steve Coffey–principal deputy assistant secretary for democracy–human rights–and labor.

Speaking on US-Turkish relations at the annual conference of the American- Turkish Council–Coffey said there are three main problem areas as far as human rights are concerned in Turkey.

Freedom of expression

The government has enforced laws that "we feel criminalize speech," Coffey said. He cited the cases of specific individuals and also indicated that 135 journalists had been detained under these laws– 11 of whom had been arrested. In addition–he noted that "Kurdish language broadcasts remain illegal."

Torture

Coffey quoted the reports of human rights organizations indicating "a number of deaths under suspicious circumstances." He also cited a report last December issued by the Council of Europe critical of instances of torture in Turkey–particularly in prisons.

Abuses in Southeastern Turkey

Coffey criticized the government "abuses," particularly the forcible removal of local inhabitants from their villages. Although he said the estimates of forcible removals are down from an initially estimated two million to perhaps 500,000–"that is still a large number of people."

As far as military operations were concerned–Coffey said there is "great concern," about "how our equipment has–or will be–used."

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