Turkey defends its rights record at UN body
DHA PhotoTurkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç received a grilling over rights problems in the country
during a meeting at the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group in Geneva on Jan. 27.
Egypt, which has been holding three Al-Jazeera staff in jail for more than a year, criticized Turkey harshly on freedom of press by saying it had broken a world record in the number of imprisoned journalists for two years.
Syria, meanwhile, recommended Turkey exert more effective control over its borders to "prevent the movement of terrorist groups," including those benefiting from transnational organized crime.
“We recommend that Turkey show genuine and full commitment to international treatments and resolutions combating terrorism, especially Security Council resolutions,” the Syrian delegation said.
However, Arınç responded by saying that Turkey had a "completely plural media" and had no problem with freedom of the press.
Washington’s delegation said it was concerned about growing restrictions on freedom of expression including censorship of news media and the Internet in Turkey, as well as restrictions limits assembly.
“We are concerned at government interference in the judiciary and law enforcement sectors such as recent efforts to restructure the courts and undermine the rule of law. We are concerned that effective structures are not in place to protect human trafficking victims,” said the U.S. delegation.
Deputy Prime Minister Arınç said journalists imprisoned in Turkey were not in jail because of their journalism activities but because of their criminal activities, such as being a member of a terrorist organization. He added that the current number of journalists in jail was 31, apparently contradicting Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's recent claim that the number had dropped to seven.
The first review on Turkey’s record by the UPR was conducted in May 2010 with a delegation headed by the then-deputy prime minister and current Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek.
“Over the last 12 years, comprehensive reforms on human rights have continuously been carried out with an understanding that puts the individual at the center. But no matter how great the progress we have made, we resolutely continue our efforts to achieve better,” Arınç also said.
Several countries expressed concern over the rights of minorities, including the Alevi community and the Kurds, while the U.S. criticized Turkey for “the rise of anti-Semitism.”
In response to U.S. criticism, Arınç said anti-Semitism was an "unknown concept in Turkey."
“There has never been hatred against the Jewish community in Turkey. In history, the Turkish homeland provided a safe haven to Jewish people who fled various persecutions. Any isolated anti-Semitic statements are condemned at the highest level and the necessary judicial or administrative steps are taken,” he said.
Speaking on minority rights, Arınç said the government had the will and determination to reopen the Halki Seminary on Heybeliada island, in the Marmara Sea off Istanbul. He also recalled recent reforms that allowed the return of minority properties.
Arınç said they were holding meetings with the leaders of the Alevi community to improve their demands, while pointing to changes made in religious textbooks in 2011 and the renaming of a university in Nevşehir after a leading Alevi figure, Hacı Bektaşi Veli.
Responding to a question on LGBTI rights, Arınç said there was currently no article against LGBTI rights in Turkey’s regulations, but the lack of any regulation did not mean that their rights are not protected.
Investigations into attacks and hate crimes against LGBTI individuals are being conducted with detail, he vowed.