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Beatriz Becerra: Turkey must act according to its commitments.

Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROI) of the European Parliament. The Subcommittee’s main responsibilities include all matters relating to human rights, the protection of minorities and the promotion of democratic values while its geographical remit covers countries outside the EU.

PPJ interviewed DROI Vise Chair and Spanish MEP Beatriz BECERRA BASTERRECHEA on the recent crackdown and the rights violations in Turkey.

Ms Becerra is a member of ALDE, one of the three oldest Groups, it is the fourth-largest Group in the Parliament and founded as an explicitly Liberal Group.


 

Grave human rights violations in Turkey have been reported by various international organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as by the UN Special Rapporteurs. In your capacity as the Vice Chair of the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, what would you like to say?

 

Human rights must be respected everywhere, regardless of the country and situation. Furthermore, Turkey is signatory to both the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and, since early 2000s, it has compromised itself to introduce reforms to strengthen democracy and ensure full respect to fundamental rights and freedoms. For all this, Turkey must act according to its commitments.

 

You also are a member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. Credible reports show that there are more than 17000 women in Turkish prisons trying to survive under inhumane conditions. 700 of them have to live in the prisons with their children under the age of 6. What would you like to say about the women who have been imprisoned arbitrarily in the aftermath of the aborted coup?

 

The article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Turkey ratified in 2003, establishes that everybody, regardless of their gender, has the right to a fair trial. Arbitrary detention is also covered by article 9 of the same Covenant and by Article 5 of the European Convention on human rights, which Turkey confirms to take into account when enhancing its national legal framework. Consequently, Turkey should abide by its commitments and comply with its own legislation.

 

Turkey has recently issued Red Notices for several dissidents living in exile including senior journalist Can Dundar and some other journalists. Already 156 journalists are behind bars, Turkey’s crackdown on free expression is testing EU’s sincerity in European values. Do you think EU leadership has reacted accordingly or it has tended to appease the Erdogan government so far for reasons that can be explained by the Realpolitik?

 

EU leadership is really concerned about the respect for fundamental values and freedom of expression in Turkey. This is why the EU is divided on the future of its accession, some Member States have openly proposed replacing membership with a special partnership; some have publicly opposed full membership, while others continue to support the process of accession.

During the European Parliament plenary session of February we voted a resolution on the current human rights situation in Turkey which made a specific reference to the fate of imprisoned journalists and to the misuse of the state of emergency to silence dissent.

 

First, a German-Kurdish football player was shot in German Highway for his criticism of Erdogan about the Afrin Offensive. Then, a Swiss-Turkish businessman was subjected to an attempt of abduction by the Turkish intelligence. Swiss authorities prevented the abduction and identified the plotter as an employee of the Turkish embassy. Recently, Turkish spy agency has abducted six Turkish nationals from Kosovo which has shocked the international community. Do you think the aggressiveness of the Turkish government poses a security threat to the European  citizens?

 

We should start a serious discussion to try to find another strategic approach towards Turkey, thinking not only about how Turkey can challenge European security and democracy externally but also internally and we should start viewing Turkey as a multidimensional security risk. Breaking off all relations is not an option but the situation requires an holistic approach which helps to promote a bottom-up democracy in Turkey and develop real democratic values in the Turkish society.

The emergence of a genuine Turkish democracy should be our key strategic goal and the EU must be ready to invest all resources and time necessary to ensure this outcome comes to fruition. If it is not the case we risk an escalation of the situation that would pose a security risk for the EU.

 

The European Court of Human Rights has several times disappointed the Turkish purge victims by rejecting their applications based on very much controversial reasons. Many law experts and rights defenders within Turkey and EU have been criticizing the Court for playing into Erdogan’s hand. What would you like to say about that?

 

An estimate of a thirty-five percent of all Turkish applications to the European Court of Human Rights are rejected due to procedural mistakes. Some NGOs and research institutes that promote human rights have been developing specific workshops with Turkish lawyers aimed to strengthen their law case applications to the European Court of Human Rights by analysing the jurisprudence and the legal system of the court.

In two recent judgments, the cases of journalists Mehmet Altan and Sahin Alpay, the European Court found violations of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom of expression. The court made clear that criticism of governments should not attract criminal charges since, in addition to pre-trial detention, this would inevitably have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and would silence dissenting voices. Consequently the ECHR has found that there had been violations of the right to freedom of expression in Turkey.

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