The International Press Institute, the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) and 14 other rights groups published a joint letter on 23 June 2021 calling on the European Council to strengthen its demands on Turkey to end backsliding on human rights.
The joint letter, addressed to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, aims at ensuring that the improvement of fundamental rights and the rule of law are at the core of the EU-Turkey relations. It is published ahead of a two-day European Council Summit Meeting starting on 24 June in Brussels, which has previously been described as a key moment for Turkey’s future relations with the EU by Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, the head of the EU delegation to Turkey:
“The meeting will mark a very important moment for the future development and improvement of EU-Turkey relations. I hope that we will be in an environment that is conducive to positive decisions.”
The signatories of the letter, which include, inter alia, the European Federation of Journalists, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Reporters without Borders, urge the European Council to translate its continuous commitment to fundamental rights and the rule of law into tangible reality:
“While the restatement of the EU’s commitments are welcome, more robust action is needed to address Turkey’s backsliding on human rights.”
In the letter, the organisations condemn the recent deterioration of human rights in Turkey, such as the ongoing closure case against the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP), the refusal of Turkey to implement the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) demand to release human rights defenders Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, as well as threats of violence and dozens of trials against the elected parliamentary opposition.
The European Council is being asked to affirm that these developments will impede the positive agenda and to
“Prioritize concrete and measurable improvements in Turkey’s domestic human rights record.”
In order to improve the human rights situation, the Turkish government should release all prisoners of conscience and implement the ECtHR’s rulings, while the European Council needs to
”Clarify that EU-Turkey relations is not only based on a dialogue on human rights, but on a demonstrated mutual commitment to implement human rights obligations.”
The EU has shown its commitment to supporting calls for improvements by Turkey to its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council’s 47th regular session which began in Geneva on Monday 21 June. The EU mission to the UN used part of its high level statement to deliver a robust public rebuke to Turkey:
“The EU remains concerned about the continued deterioration of respect for the rule of law and human rights, incl. fundamental freedoms and the independence of the judiciary in Turkey. The targeting of political parties, people participating in trade union activities, independent media, human rights defenders, lawyers and judges, as well as other recent decisions represent major setbacks for human rights and run counter to Turkey’s obligations to respect democracy, the rule of law and women’s rights. Human rights are non-negotiable and they continue to be an integral part of EU-Turkey relations. As an EU candidate country and long-standing member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is expected to apply the highest democratic standards and practices. In this context, we urge Turkey to implement the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. The EU calls on Turkey to fully uphold women’s rights.”
To read the full letter, click here.