In its 20th annual World Report Human Rights Watch (HRW) evaluated the year 2009 in terms of human rights conditions. Regarding Turkey, HRW prioritized the need for a new Constitution.
The government's announcements related to the "democratic initiative" sparked hopes that a long-stalled reform process might be resumed:
"The realization of a plan to uphold minority rights for Turkey's different ethnic and religious groups would represent a fundamental departure from the variously assimilationist or repressive policies of the past, and offers the possibility of advancing the rights of all groups."
"Obstacles remain clear"
HRW points out that the obstacles to change remain clear:
- Numerous provisions of the current constitution restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a new constitution must be a priority.
- There were continuing prosecutions and convictions of individuals who expressed nonviolent critical opinion or political views on the Kurdish issue, among other subjects viewed as controversial.
- Restrictions on press freedom remain a concern.
- Decisions of Turkey's Court of Cassation continued to flout international human rights law and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, and demonstrate that the judiciary remains a site of institutionalized resistance to reform.
- The struggle to assert civilian control over the military in Turkey continues: A June change to the law on military courts ensures that military personnel will be tried in civilian courts for serious offenses, including forming criminal gangs and plotting coups. [N.B.: The Constitutional Court cancelled this amendment last week and decreed a stay of execution.]
Positive reference to agreement with Armenia
The most notable foreign policy achievement of the year came with the signing of an agreement by Turkey and Armenia that opens the way to establishing diplomatic relations and reopening the long-closed border between the two countries. The decision is subject to parliamentary approval.
Oppression of human rights defenders
Repression on human rights defenders as the main topic of the World Report does concern Turkey as well. The report highlights the fact that no progress was made regarding the trial about the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink three years ago. HRW furthermore draw attention to members of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) who stood trial in Izmir on charges of being members of the PKK. The evidence against them mainly referred to their activities in support of such issues as Kurdish-language education. Additionally, the report mentions the detention of Human Rights Association (İHD) executive Filiz Kaya. (TK/VK)
* Click here to see the full report.
Source: Human Rights Watch.
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