Council of Europe’s Turkey report calls PKK militants 'activists', sparking outcry

Council of Europe’s Turkey report calls PKK militants 'activists', sparking outcry

Council of Europe’s Turkey report calls PKK militants activists, sparking outcry

Josette Durrieu, rapporteur on Turkey for PACE, addresses the Council of Europe. AA photo

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) latest assessment on Turkey published April 23 praised the reforms in the country but sparked debate by changing the terminology for describing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants to 'activists'.

During the discussion sessions on the report, the Council of Europe deputies voted in favor of Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü’s motion to change a sentence which stated that “PKK terrorism has claimed over 40,000 victims” to “the conflict between PKK and the Turkish state.” 

Deputies representing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well as the opposition parties slammed the use of the wording “PKK activists” in the explanatory memorandum prepared by the rapporteur on Turkey Josette Durrieu. 

“I comment on this with a lot of anger. There is an ongoing resolution process. That’s why there is an attempt to soften the atmosphere. But the PKK is a terrorist organization. And the members of this organization are called terrorists. I can’t understand why they refrain from admitting or saying that,” AKP’s representative at the Council of Europe, Nursuna Memecan was quoted by the Anatolia news agency. “This [ends up] with the question that [for the Council of Europe] the others' terrorists can be called activists,” she added.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Spokesman Haluk Koç also described the changes as “unacceptable”. “The expressions presenting the PKK as equal to the [Turkish] state are unacceptable. It’s is not possible to approve the expression calling terrorists activists,” he said. 

PKK's activities are described as 'terrorist' activities: Davutoğlu

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that the report would not change the fact that the PKK was on the European Union’s designated terrorist organizations list. “If you read the report, you will see that there are many sentences that define PKK’s activities as terrorist activities,” Davutoğlu said, adding that Turkish deputies had voiced the appropriate reaction to the report. “Therefore it’s not right to make such significance of this, but we always respond in the due way,” he said.

The resolution, the first in five years, welcomed Turkey’s progress in many areas, including bringing its legislation into line with the European Convention on Human Rights, advancing the ongoing peace process, promoting the cultural and linguistic rights of the Kurds, stepping up dialogue with religious communities and establishing the institution of ombudsman. 

However, it also spells out the steps Turkey still needs to take if it is to successfully complete its reform program, such as further reform of the Constitution and continuing revision of the Criminal Code, as well as progress on freedom of expression, pre-trial detentions, local and regional decentralization and resolving the Kurdish question.