EU Comes Down on Turkey for Raid on Rights Group

". . . FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEGISLATIVE REFORMS IN DAY-TO-DAY LIFE IN TURKEY. . . WILL BE THE STANDARD FOR ASSESSING TURKEY’S SUITABILITY FOR ACCESSION.” –EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen

BRUSSELS (Reuters)–The European Commission took Turkey to task on Wednesday over a police raid on a human rights organization and said such actions could only damage Ankara’s bid to join the European Union.

In a separate report–United Nations experts said they were concerned that torture was still widely practiced in Turkey–which has promised democratic reforms in the hope of opening talks on EU membership.

In an unusually tough statement–EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said last week’s raid on the Human Rights Association in Ankara ran counter to those promises.

"Once again–this shows the extent of the gap between the political reforms on one hand and the attitude of the executive and judicial authorities on the other–in terms of implementation,” Verheugen said.

"I can only stress the importance of full implementation of the legislative reforms in day-to-day life in Turkey. This will be the standard for assessing Turkey’s suitability for accession.”

The Human Rights Association–long at heads with the Turkish establishment–said police raided its offices on May 6 on an order from a state security court investigating allegations that it had aided illegal organizations.

Verheugen said the Commission–the EU’s executive arm–had provided gran’s to the Human Rights Association worth 309,000 euros ($355,000) between 1992 and 1999.

"Human rights organizations must be able to work unhindered and will continue to be supported by the Commission,” he said.

EU leaders will review Turkey’s bid to open accession talks in December 2004 in the light of progress on human rights and broader political reforms.

The Commission says Turkey must cement religious and cultural freedoms–curb the role of the army in political life and stamp out the use of torture before it can start talks.

But the UN’s Committee against Torture said in Geneva that torture in police custody was still common and called on Turkey to prosecute police and army officers responsible.

The 10-member body of independent experts discussed a report from the Turkish government and recommended "that Turkey ensure that the full benefits of safeguards against ill-treatment and torture of detainees be available in practice.”

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