Turkey needs more progress in human rights

Turkey needs more progress in human rights

In a resolution on the 2012 Progress report on Turkey, deputies of the European Parliament stated that Turkey needed to step up efforts to “freedom of expression, media freedom and all other fundamental freedoms” in line with the values of the European Union (EU). The statement made by the country rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten is not something unusual; there have been tens of similar reports in the more than half a century duration of Turkey in the waiting room of the EU membership.

But the next paragraph is new. The statement urges the EU Commiccion to open up to more chapters in order to support Turkey in speeding of the reform process. Those are the 23rd chapter on the judiciary and fundamental rights and 24th chapter on justice, freedom and security. The EU report welcomes the government initiative to start a dialogue with Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a political solution for the Kurdish problem and also the judicial reform packages so far, but criticise the state of fair trial, freedom of expression and media.

The voting on the Progress report came at a time when Turkey is debating the Kurdish issue, the courts and the freedom of expression all together, all somehow related with rights issues. The court ruling of the world-reknown Turkish piano vistuoso Fazıl Say, on the bases that he had insulted the reliigious feelings of people by re-tweeting a poem is a lively issue on media agenda.

The judicial proceedings, especially long pre-trial detentions, lack of precise definition of acts of terrorism and limits of freedom of expression is expected to have a place in the Turkey section of annual human rights report of the U.S. Department of State. The report is expected to be released as the US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to İstanbul on April 20-21 for the Core Group meetings of the Friends of Syrian People.

By the way, speaking of rights and vialoations, I have to make a statement as well. As HDN, we apologize for using US Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone’s comments regarding Fazıl Say out of context in Wednesday’s editions. While the Ambassador was clearly showing his sympathy for Say and was in fact critical of the recent court decision, using the Ambassador’s remarks out of context has resulted in misreporting of what was actually said. Since his arrival in Turkey, Ricciardone has had a significant record of publicly supporting freedom of expression and Rule of Law in Turkey. The U.S. position has long been clear regarding issues of freedom of speech, the press and human rights in Turkey– as I believe will be seen again when the State Department releases its next Human Rights report. We are deeply sorry to have caused this misunderstanding.

Coming back to the issue, the progress in the level of human rights and freedoms in Turkey will certainly help the country to break its chains from the ‘mid-income, mid-democracy trap’ that it is trying to escape for sometime. If the government manages to stop terrorism coming from the Kurdish problem, and also improve the atmosphere regarding the judicial proceedings and freedoms, it could next be expected to have greater investments; a "feed back" process. More human rights and freedoms is the key for better democracy and prosperity.