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US criticizes 'human rights violations' in Turkey

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 4/10/2011 12:00:00 AM | ÜMİT ENGİNSOY

Unlawful killings, long trials and limits on freedom of expression in Turkey are among the alleged human-rights violations denounced by the US State Department.

Unlawful killings, poor prison conditions, excessively long trials and limits on freedom of expression are among the alleged human-rights violations in Turkey that the U.S. State Department denounced in a recent report.

“Security forces committed unlawful killings; the number of arrests and prosecutions in these cases was low compared to the number of incidents, and convictions remained rare,” the State Department said late Friday in the section devoted to Turkey in its annual report on the status of human rights throughout the world.

U.S. officials also commented on the recent arrests of Turkish journalists, which came too late to be included in this report, saying they would be monitored and addressed in next year’s survey.

“During the year human-rights organizations reported cases of torture, beatings and abuse by security forces. Prison conditions improved but remained poor, with overcrowding and insufficient staff training,” the State Department said in its 2010 human-rights report.

“The overly close relationship between judges and prosecutors continued to hinder the right to a fair trial. Excessively long trials were a problem. The government limited freedom of expression through the use of constitutional restrictions and numerous laws,” the State Department said.

“Press freedom declined during the year. There were limitations on Internet freedom. Courts and an independent board ordered telecommunications providers to block access to Web sites on numerous occasions,” it said in the report. “Violence against women, including honor killings and rape, remained a widespread problem.”

There were positive developments about human rights in Turkey in 2010, however, according to the report. “On April 11, the political parties law was amended to allow campaigning in languages other than Turkish, including Kurdish,” the State Department said.

“On July 25, the government amended the anti-terror laws to prohibit prosecution of minors under the laws, reduce punishments for illegal demonstrations and meetings and allow for the release of minors who had been previously convicted under the laws, resulting in the release of hundreds of children from prison,” it said.

The State Department also praised the passage of a package of constitutional reforms in a Sept. 12 referendum.

[HH] Journalists’ cases

The declining situation for press freedom in Turkey, including the arrest of several prominent Turkish journalists earlier this year, would figure in the State Department’s 2011 human-rights report, to be published next year, U.S. officials said.

“In the early months of this year there have been the arrests of several well-known Turkish journalists in connection with the Ergenekon trial, and we’ve expressed concerns to the Turkish government about that. We’ll continue to do so, and those events will be reflected in our 2011 report,” Michael Posner, the assistant secretary of state responsible for democracy, human rights and labor, said at a briefing in Washington late Friday.

Hundreds of people have been accused in the ongoing Ergenekon case, which deals with an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.

The State Department’s survey assesses the state of human rights in 194 countries and highlights serious violations in China, Iran, Iraq, Burma, North Korea, the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

Because it covers the events of 2010, the report did not focus on the revolutions that have swept across the Middle East and North Africa this year, toppling longtime authoritarian leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and sparking uprisings in Syria, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.

In the introduction to its 2010 country reports on human rights, the State Department said: “At this moment, we cannot predict the outcome of these changes and we will not know the lasting impacts for years to come.”

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