(New York, December 14, 2001) -- Human Rights Watch today cast a dim view on Turkey's progress toward accession to the European Union. In an analysis of the E.U.'s annual progress report on accession countries, Human Rights Watch said Turkey had done little more than "tinsel and varnish" its poor human rights record.

"In the two years since Turkey became an official candidate for E.U. membership, we have seen little but superficial and half-way measures," said Elizabeth Andersen, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. "Yes, there are new human rights commitments and new human rights institutions, but torture remains rampant and free expression is severely limited. There has been no meaningful change-so far just tinsel and varnish."

Analyzing the lack of progress, Human Rights Watch pointed to the obstructive role of the Turkish military and urged that Turkish military representatives be included in the consultations between the E.U. and the Turkish government.

"To break the gridlock, the Turkish military is going to have to become unequivocally committed and engaged with the European project," said Andersen.

The Human Rights Watch analysis was released as E.U. heads of state convene in Laeken, where among other issues they will discuss the progress toward the accession of applicant states, including Turkey.

Human Rights Watch praised the European Commission's assessment of the human rights situation in Turkey as generally fair and accurate. Human Rights Watch said the annual report appropriately acknowledged the positive steps taken by the government of Turkey, without exaggerating the progress or underestimating the severity of remaining problems. The group said, however, that the E.U. had muted its criticism of Turkey on a number of issues on which some E.U. states still do not themselves meet international standards-incommunicado detention, the rights of women to wear headscarves, and the rights of conscientious objectors to refuse military service.