Turk Rights Group Slams Government Rights Efforts

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s rights watchdog slammed the country’s conservative-led government on Wednesday saying it had failed in its efforts to improve the country’s shaky human rights record–Anatolian news agency said.

"The government’s initiatives on human rights are for the European Union. But nothing has changed in life or the legal system," it quoted Akin Birdal–chairman of the Human Rights Association as saying.

The European Parliament has withheld hundreds of millions of financial aid to Ankara–in the framework of its customs union deal with the EU–partly due to Turkey’s poor human rights record.

European countries say Ankara should make substantial progress on the rights issue for it to be able to join the EU.

Birdal said the right-left coalition government of Mesut Yilmaz had not fulfilled its pledge to improve the country’s rights record since coming to power last June.

Parliament lifted 10 years of emergency rule in three out of nine provinces in the southeast earlier this month–the scene of a bloody 13-year convex with Kurdish separatist that has claimed more 27,000 lives.

Rights observers say violations are still taking place in the southeastern province of Mardin where the emergency rule was scrapped a year ago.

The cabinet issued a partial amnesty this summer for jailed newspaper and magazine editors–but many ordinary journalists are still in prison.

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