New human rights action plan underway: Justice minister

New human rights action plan underway: Justice minister

New human rights action plan underway: Justice minister

Turkey is preparing a new human rights action plan in a bid to “advance rights and freedoms,” Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül has said.

“We are preparing a new human rights action plan to further advance rights and freedoms. The regulations we will make in this context will serve to strengthen our democracy,” Gül said.

The minister’s remarks came during the opening ceremony of “Supporting the Implementation and Reporting on the Action Plan on Human Rights in Turkey” project on Dec. 9, which was also attended by Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejčinović Burić.

“New steps will be taken regarding rights and freedoms,” Gül said.

The minister also conveyed that the first action plan was prepared in 2014 and was solely focused on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), but the new plan will also assess other international documents.

The new action plan will also include opinions and suggestions from non-governmental organizations, scholars, the European Union and the Council of Europe, he underlined.

All ministries, as well as the government, will have a “course of action” to improve rights and freedoms, especially in the judiciary, Gül added.

Underlining the importance of implementing reform policies for public institutions, Gül said: “Our aim is to satisfy the public demands and help our citizens get the service of more efficient and qualified justice in a more reasonable time.”

Turkey is on course to implement the Judicial Reform Strategy Document, a plan unveiled on May 30 to improve the working of the nation’s judiciary.

The first package of judicial reform was put in effect on Oct. 24. The first package includes speeding up penal lawsuits, expanding the context of reconciliation, introducing the accelerated procedure of trials as well as regulations on rights and freedoms.

“I would also want to remind you that the fight against terrorism is also a struggle for human rights. Turkey has been putting up the fight against terrorist organizations such as FETÖ, the PKK, and Daesh on the basis of human rights,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.

He also called for support to Turkey’s demands regarding the extradition of “offenders.”

‘Further legislative amendments needed’

Meanwhile, Burić said that the new action plan is a result of long-lasting cooperation between the Council and Europe and Turkey, yet there are still issues that need to be solved.

The secretary-general said that “ambiguity of legislation, limited and narrow interpretation of human rights standards and excessive limitations to rights and freedoms” are at the core of applications to the ECHR.

“To overcome these problems, changes in judicial interpretation and further legislative amendments are needed,” she said.

“Achieving maximum effect will require political drive, intensive judicial interaction between Strasbourg and Ankara, inclusive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders – including civil society and media organizations – and the determination of the Turkish authorities, at the highest level, to ensure that change is put into practice,” she added.

Burić also stressed that the July 15, 2016, defeated coup attempt was an “illegitimate attack on the democratic institutions of [Turkey].”