Amnesty International European Union Office Director Dick Oosting has sent a letter to Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enlargement in European Commission.
Dated on September 17, the letter is about " Forthcoming assessment of Turkey's progress towards fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria".
Here is the letter:
Dear Mr. Verheugen,
As the Commission finalizes its 2002 progress reports, Amnesty International has as usual made efforts to provide your office with up-to-date information about the situation in the candidate countries. While for most of the countries concerned there is cause for a critical appraisal regarding the human rights chapter, we consider it necessary and appropriate to draw your attention in particular to Turkey. According to our information and assessment, there are as yet no signs that the legislative reforms over the last 12 months, including the reform package of August 2002, have resulted in effective improvements in practice.
Specifically, the European Union must be aware that all the factors that contributed to the persistence of systematic torture and impunity for the perpetrators through 2001 until today remain in place. In spite of legal changes torture is still widespread and practised systematically in Turkey. Amnesty International continues to receive reports about new instances of torture on a regular basis. Some 60 cases of torture and ill-treatment inflicted on detainees from different societal and political groups and from various parts of the country, including men, women and children between January and early 2002 will be published this week in the Amnesty International report " Turkey: Systematic torture continues in 2002 ".1
The EU has called for legal provisions and all necessary measures to be taken to reinforce the fight against torture in compliance with the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture. Amnesty International is concerned that the legislative adjustments so far have been inadequate to root out the key factors facilitating torture: for example, the maximum period of police and gendarmerie custody has been reduced to four respectively seven days. Under amendments passed on 6 February 2002, legally prescribed incommunicado detention for detainees under the jurisdiction of State Security Courts was reduced to 48 hours. Since, in the majority of reported cases, torture apparently occurs within the first 24 hours of police or gendarmerie detention, the amendments are clearly an insufficient step to effectively combat torture. Also, Amnesty International has repeatedly documented that, in practice, incommunicado detention is often longer than legally permitted, and that detainees suspected of ordinary offences are often denied their legal right to immediate contact with the outside world. In the Region under State of Emergency authorities continue to apply Decree No. 430, thus holding detainees in prolonged police and gendarmerie custody for dozens of days during which they are at an increased risk of torture.
Amnesty International urges the EU to impress upon Turkey to finally implement in full the recommendations of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. The EU should in particular demand the immediate abolition of incommunicado detention and the prohibition of the routine practice of blindfolding detainees.
As regards other developments in the human rights situation in light of the amendments to the Turkish Constitution and recent legislative reforms, including the reform package of August 2002, we would like to draw your attention to the enclosed briefing. We remain concerned that guarantees for full enjoyment by all individuals of the rights and freedoms set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, including effective safeguards against torture and the removal of restrictions on freedom of expression, are still missing.
Amnesty International urges the EU to ensure that the human rights practice, not paragraphs or legislative proposals, will be the EU's yardstick when measuring Turkey's compliance with the Copenhagen Criteria. The EU must fulfil its responsibility in ensuring that the accession process realizes its unique potential to bring about real progress on all aspects of human rights.
The assessment of the candidate countries' performance on human rights is an important statement about the level of human rights protection the citizens of an enlarged European Union will enjoy and how the EU will meet its obligations to protect the rights of its citizens in the future. The choices that are to be made directly concern the future of the EU as a community of states built on respect for human rights. They do not only reflect on the standards of practice to be achieved by Turkey. They also reflect on the continuing efforts to be made by the other candidate countries: although accepted into accession negotiations because they were thought to have fulfilled the political criteria to a sufficient level, most of them nevertheless still have considerable progress to make. And finally, they must reflect on the level of human rights observance by the existing member states that still falls short in a number of respects. 2 In fact, the complacency shown so far by the EU in applying consistent standards both internally and externally can not fail to have its effect on the candidate countries' resolve to measure up and to maintain the highest level of human rights protection.
Amnesty International has no position on the question of whether or not Turkey should be a member of the EU. If anything, bringing Turkey into the framework of the EU offers a unique opportunity to further support and deepen the process of reforms that Turkey has embarked upon. But it is precisely in this perspective that it is of utmost importance to recall a core value, upon which the EU is founded, namely the respect for human rights. When assessing the candidacy of any country, the EU will be expected to reaffirm that these are to be upheld in law as well as in practice. We must insist that a future European Union be built on the highest possible standards of effective human rights protection.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
Amnesty International EU Office
Annex : Turkey - Systematic torture continues in 2002, AI Index EUR 44/040/2002 Turkey - Briefing on the present state of human rights development during the pre-accession process concerns in Europe January-June 2002, AI Index EUR 01/007/2002 - this report is available on our website www.amnesty-eu.org
Cc: DG Enlargement - Mr. Eneko Landaburu, Mr. Adriaan van der Meer, Mr. Alessandro Missir, Mrs. Angela Marques De Athayde DG External Relations - Mrs. Daniela Napoli Permanent Representations of Member States to the European Union
1. The cases presented in the report have been brought to the attention of DG Enlargement in July 2002.
2. Please see Amnesty International's report "Concerns in Europe January-June 2002", AI Index EUR 01/007/2002.