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Joint NGO Letter to Michel and Von der Leyen over Rule of Law in Turkey

His Excellency Mr. Charles Michel
President of the European Council


Her Excellency Ms. Ursula von der Leyen
President of the European Commission

23.06.2021


Your Excellencies,

In advance of the forthcoming European Council Summit Meeting of 24 – 25 June, we, the undersigned press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations are writing to you once again to urge the European Council to strengthen its commitment to fundamental rights and the rule of law in the European Union’s relations to Turkey.

In March 2021 the Council stated:

‐        Rule of law and fundamental rights remain a key concern. The targeting of political parties and media and 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. Dialogue on such issues remains an integral part of the EU‐Turkey relationship.

And  in  June,  a  letter  on  your  behalf  addressed  to  the  International  Press  Institute  reaffirmed the Council’s  commitment  to  the  rule  of  law  and  fundamental  rights  and  further elaborated  that  ‘the Union continues to remind Turkey of its obligations and urges it to act accordingly.’

While  the  restatement  of  the  EU’s  commitments  are  welcome,  more  robust  action  is needed  to address Turkey’s backsliding on human rights.

Since the March Council meeting and the April meeting with President Erdoğan, the human rights situation on the ground has deteriorated further. Turkey blatantly refuses to implement calls of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to release human rights defender Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş. A closure case against the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) on top of the trial of dozens of its politicians for their political speeches and tweets shows how 
the criminal justice system is used as a cudgel against the elected parliamentary opposition. A gunman’s attack on the HDP office in Izmir and murder of a young woman in the building while the police were on duty outside now also raises fresh and concerning threats of violence.

Many  of  these  latest  developments  should  not  come  as  a  surprise.  The  European Commission’s progress reports provide detailed coverage of the extent of the human rights crisis in the country.

The European Parliament has consistently condemned Turkey’s press freedom and human rights record and, in its report of 19 May 2021, called on the Council to introduce human rights and the rule of law as key criteria in the development of EU‐Turkey relations in order to end the backsliding of
fundamental freedoms.

All efforts to engage with Turkey on other broader geopolitical issues, including solving the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean, must be balanced with addressing the ongoing deterioration of the rule of law and protection of fundamental rights.

We  therefore  urge  you  as  Presidents  of  the  European  Council  and  the  European Commission, to ensure   that   the   positive   agenda   proposed   by   the   EU   prioritizes  concrete   and   measurable improvements in Turkey’s domestic human rights record. We therefore call on the European Council to:

-     Explicitly call on the Turkish government to release all prisoners of conscience, put an end to the practice of detaining elected officials, lawyers and journalists, halt political influence over the judiciary and immediately implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights;
-     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;
-     Affirm that the deteriorating human rights situation will hamper the positive agenda proposed 
by the European Council, including the possible upgrade of the EU‐Turkey Customs Union.

We thank you in advance for considering our requests.

Signed:

International Press Institute (IPI)

International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
ARTICLE 19

Human Rights Watch

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) Amnesty International
PEN International

Academics for Peace‐Germany KulturForum TürkeiDeutschland e.V.
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
English PEN
IFEX
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
 

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