Human Rights WatchWorld Report ContentsDownloadPrintOrderHRW Homepage

World map Turkey



Europe and Central Asia

Middle East and North Africa

Special Issues and Campaigns

United States


Children’s Rights

Women’s Human Rights


The Role of The International Community

The European Union

Tense relations between Turkey and the European Union reached a climax in late 1997 when the European Union made a decision to exclude Turkey from its list of eleven prospective members. In June, the E.U. pointed to Turkey’s dismal human rights record as its primary concern, but it also took steps to improve relations with Turkey, including efforts to expand the Turkey/E.U. customs union and to promote economic and social development in the country. The E.U. also decided to issue regular reports on Turkey’s progress in meeting E.U. general standards for admission. The European Parliament continued to block development aidto Turkey because of human rights concerns.

The E.U. made efforts to prevent an influx of Iraqi and Turkish Kurds by providing assistance to Turkey.

The Council of Europe

In June, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly approved a recommendation on the humanitarian situation of Kurdish refugees, which was critical of both sides to the conflict, though its criticism of the government’s treatment of the Kurdish minority was substantially weakened in the floor debate. Turkey remained subject to the assembly’s monitoring procedure and its rapporteurs visited the country in September. As of this writing, their report was being drafted.

The European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission on Human Rights, which have found Turkey in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights on several occasions, continued to have a heavy caseload from Turkey, including commission proceedings related to cases of “extra-judicial” killings. To date, Turkey has paid approximately $800,000 in compensation to victims of abuses whose cases went before the court or commission, and more than 1,000 applications against Turkey are currently pending.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE’s human dimensions institutions remained engaged in Turkey, with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) consulting Turkish authorities on the possible creation of a national ombudsperson, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media paying a May visit—at the invitation of the Turkish government—to discuss freedom of expression concerns.

United States

In 1998, the U.S. government reaffirmed its commitment to press for human rights improvements while stressing the overall importance of Turkey as a strategic ally. The State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997 noted the Turkish government’s efforts to improve the country’s human rights record, but stated that there was a “general recognition that the country’s human rights performance is inadequate.” The Clinton Administration pledged to block a possible $3.5 billion attack helicopter sale to Turkey unless its human rights record improved significantly, in accordance with commitments made by Prime Minister Yilmaz during his meeting with President Clinton in December 1997. In September, the State Department took an important and unprecedented decision to allow the sale of U.S.-manufactured armored personnel carriers to Turkey’s Anti-Terror and Anti-Riot Police to go forward with U.S. Export-Import Bank financing, only if the equipment were not used in eleven provinces where those police have been associated with serious human rights violations. At the time of this writing, it was uncertain that the sale would ultimately take place, and if so, under what monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance with the United States government’s restriction.

The Administration also criticized Turkey’s decision to ban the Welfare Party and expressed its concern that the closure of legitimate parties “damages confidence in Turkey’s democratic, multi-party system.” In February, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck visited one of the former DEP deputies, Leyla Zana, in prison; she is serving a fifteen-year term largely for speeches she had made. U.S. foreign assistance to Turkey dropped to an estimated $26.5 million in 1998, and the Administration requested only $6 million—eliminating all U.S. military loans (FMF)—for 1999.





Republic of Belarus

Bosnia and Hercegovina



Czech Republic








The Russian Federation





United Kingdom


Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Asylum Policy in Western Europe



Copyright © 1999
Human RIghts Watch