Turkey Fails to Deliver on Reforms

Editor’s Note: On Thursday–the European Commission praised Turkey for taking a key step toward reducing the political role of its powerful armed forces and said practical implementation of reforms is vital to advance its EU bid. Welcoming the reforms–an EU spokesperson said that the European Commission is not passing definite judgment about Turkey’s accession into the; rather–the body will be closely monitoring actual implementation of reforms to monitor Turkey’s progress towards meeting membership criteria. On Wednesday–however–the International Federation for Human Rights released a report accusing Turkey of failing to implement its adopted reforms concerning human rights–especially regarding the Kurds and human rights workers.

PARIS-Following an international investigative mission to Southeast Turkey carried out in May 2003–the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published a report pointing out the worrying failure of the Turkish government to implement in practice the recently adopted legal reforms in its bid to join the European Union and to meet the EU Copenhagen political criteria. The report was presented on July 30 to the Enlargement Directorate General of the European Commission.

The results of the mission stress that despite the lifting of the State of Emergency rule (OHAL) in the South East on November 30–2002–far from improving–the situation further deteriorated in 2003.

Serious human rights violations-torture–disappearances–and extra-judicial killings-continue to go unpunished. According to the report–impunity remains the principal cause for the perpetuation of human rights violations. Moreover–tremendous obstacles still subsist to the return to their villages of the many thousands internally displaced persons during the 15 years-long conflict situation in the region.

Further–the FIDH reports serious breaches to freedom of expression–peaceful assembly and association by judicial authorities and provincial Governors. For instance–in spite of the recent legislative reforms–the right to broadcast in Kurdish language remains mainly theoretical. Human rights defenders advocating for a peaceful solution of the "Kurdish problem" are at constant risk of prosecution. For example–47 trials and prosecutions have been launched against the Chairman of the Bingl branch office of the Human Rights Association (IDH). The FIDH also expresses concern at the heavy restrictions put on trade unions and political parties’ activities–in particular against DEHAP (Democratic People’s Party).

In light of the pre-accession talks between Turkey and the EU–FIDH urges the Highest Turkish authorities to:

–Ensure the urgent and effective implementation in practice of the recent legal reforms adopted since October 2001; and thus fill the gap between the political reforms on one hand and the attitude of the judiciary and the establishment on the other hand in their implementation;

–Investigate into all alleged human rights violations in order to put an end to impunity;

— Guarantee freedom of expression–peaceful assembly and association in the South east–and in particular–put an end to the harassment and judicial persecution of human rights defenders. Furthermore–the FIDH calls upon Turkey to repeal those articles of the Turkish Criminal Code–including Article 312–159 and 169 used as a tool by the judiciary to silence and punish human rights activists who advocate for a democratic–political and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question.

–To thoroughly reform the Turkish judicial system and to abolish the State Security Courts (DGM).

The FIDH notes that the judicial power remains resilient to the implementation of the legislative reforms. The FIDH–who mandated judicial observers to several hearings in the re-trial of former Kurdish deputies Leyla Zana–Selim Sadak–Hadid Dicle and Orhan Dogann–sentenced to 15 years prisons in 1994 for "membership of an illegal group"–notices that this falls short of respecting the right of a fair trial set out by the Council of Europe and the European Union. At a time when the Turkish government announces its intention to introduce a thorough-going reform of the judicial system foreseeing the presentation of its "seventh reform package" this summer–the FIDH calls once again upon Turkey to ensure a fair–impartial and public trial to the jailed Kurdish deputies and to release them immediately.

FIDH–the International Federation for Human Rights Leagues–is a non-governmental–non-political–non-sectarian and non-profit organization that aims to advance the implementation of all the rights defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instrumen’s protecting human rights. FIDH brings together 115 human rights organizations from 90 countries and it provides them with an unparalleled network of expertise and solidarity. FIDH works to mobilize the community of states; prevent violations–and support civil society–observe and alert–and inform–denounce and protect.

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