Rights Group Calls Level of Abuses in Turkey Still ‘Unacceptable’

ANKARA (AFP)–Human rights violations decreased in Turkey in 2004 but are still at an "unacceptable level" compared to European Union norms–Turkey’s main human rights group said Friday.

"We can speak of a general improvement when we compare the 2004 human rights record to that of 2003," Yusuf Alatas–the head of the Human Rights Association (IHD) told a news conference unveiling the group’s annual human rights report.

"But if we assess the figures without comparing them to previous years–the situation is not encouraging at all," he said. "Human rights violations are still at an unacceptable level and far from EU standards."

A summary of the IHD report shows the group received 843 complaints of torture and mistreatment in 2004–compared to 1,202 in 2003.

Alatas said the figure showed that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government had failed to live up to its "zero tolerance" promise as far as torture is concerned.

The report said nine publications were seized or banned in 2004–compared to 285 the previous year.

The number of non-governmental organizations closed down by authorities dropped from 47 to 13 during the same period.

Prosecutors filed various charges against 467 people for only expressing their views–down from 1,706 people in 2003.

The report–however–said the number of people killed in armed confrontations increased from 104 to 240.

The figure appeared to reflect a rise in clashes between security forces and Kurdish rebels in the country’s mainly Kurdish southeast since last June–when the rebels ended a five-year unilateral ceasefire with Ankara.

In a landmark decision last December–the EU gave Turkey the green light for accession talks scheduled to begin on October 3–but the country is still under pressure to prove its full commitment to democracy and human rights.

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