Turkey called on to strengthen reforms

Turkey called on to strengthen reforms

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey called on to strengthen reforms

Human Rights Watch (HRW) logo. Hürriyet photo

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Turkey to strengthen legal reform on the grounds that it could “significantly improve” human rights and help bolster the ongoing peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“The [proposed] fourth reform bill contains positive elements that could help curb unjustified prosecutions for nonviolent speech and protest, and facilitate accountability for torture,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at HRW, according to a statement released yesterday at the organization’s website.

The fourth judiciary package is being examined by the Parliamentary Justice Commission and is expected to be voted on soon in Parliament.

“But the bill’s contribution to reform and the peace process will be blunted unless Parliament’s Justice Commission also narrows the crime of membership in an armed organization and lifts the time limit for prosecuting state killings,” she said.

Limiting the scope of the charge of “making terrorist propaganda” and related offenses is regarded as a positive reform in the bill, but it fails to remove all restrictions on freedom of expression, said HRW.

Sinclair-Webb also said Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code, “membership in an armed organization,” was not slated to be changed.

“Thousands in detention for nonviolent speech and association – the majority Kurdish political activists but also journalists, trade unionists, and human rights activists – are charged with this offense,” she said.

Positive measures

“To really get at the injustice of prosecuting people for nonviolent speech and association as though they were terrorists, Parliament needs to reform the membership offense,” Sinclair-Webb said.

The lifting of the statute of limitations on investigations into torture, however, is a positive measure, the HRW said.

Meanwhile, the group called on Turkey to repeal Article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code – “alienating the public from military service” – rather than amending the law.