US Lambastes Turkey Over Human Rights Record

WASHINGTON (Reuters)–The United States issued a blistering attack on the human rights record of its NATO ally Turkey on Friday–reporting widespread torture–harassment of the press and mistreatment of the Kurdish minority.

In its annual report on the rights around the world–the State Department said: "There is a general recognition–including by the government–that the country’s human rights performance is inadequate and needs to be brought in line."

In an indictment of the police and security forces–it said deaths by beating in jail and disappearances continued and torture remained widespread.

It painted a dire picture of conditions in the south-east–where security forces have fought a 10-year campaign against Kurdish separatists and where emergency power provisions have squashed the freedoms of the Kurdish people.

The report criticized government efforts to improve the rights situation saying it had introduced draft laws to ease limits on freedom of expression and ease prosecution of civil servants–but parliament took no action on them.

It noted that the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 25 journalists were in prison at the end of the year and cited many cases of harassment of human rights activists.

Turkey’s poor human rights record–in particular its restrictions on press freedom and violence by police–has been cited as a principle reason why the European Union is delaying Ankara’s application for membership.

While detailing Turkish security forces violations against Kurds–the report was equally critical of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)–which has conducted a ruthless campaign to win independence for the rugged–mountainous region.

It said the PKK intensified a campaign of suicide bombings after its leader Abdullah Ocalan was arrested in Italy in November. Ocalan was captured by Turkish agents in Kenya this month–prompting a new offensive against the PKK’s forces.

"As part of its fight against the PKK the government forcibly displaced non-combatants–failed to resolve extrajudicial killings–tortured civilians and abridged freedom of expression," the report–focusing on events in 1998–said.

It estimated that 560,000 villagers had been forcibly evacuated from their homes since the conflict began.

The report cited a crackdown on Islamic movemen’s seen by the military as threatening national security–which broadened to include "some devout politicians in mainline conservative parties and religiously observant Moslem businessmen."

In particular–it mentioned the closing of the Islamic Refah Party of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and a 10-month sentence against Istanbul Mayor Recep Erdogan–a prominent Islamist politician–for threatening state unity.

The State Department’s full human rights report on 194 countries is available on the Internet at http:/www.state.gov.

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