News / Europe

Council of Europe Criticizes Turkey's Judiciary

Plainclothes police leave the house of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party lawmaker Leyla Zana after a search in Ankara, Turkey, January 13, 2012
Plainclothes police leave the house of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party lawmaker Leyla Zana after a search in Ankara, Turkey, January 13, 2012
Dorian Jones

The criticism comes as two of the main opposition parties claim the government is using the judiciary to silence opposition in the country.

In a detailed report, the Council of Europe's commissioner on human rights, Thomas Hammerberg, has raised serious concerns that Turkey's judiciary is threatening fundamental human rights.

"There are real problems in the way the system of justice function, including the judicial system, and that has an impact on human rights," said Hammerberg. "[That's] obvious, you don't have justice in all cases being brought into the system."

One of the main concerns raised in the report is the growing number of arrests of political party members. The ongoing investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) is cited as a particular concern. Turkish authorities believe the KCK is the political wing of the Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

According to local human-rights groups, more than 4,000 people have been detained since 2009, most of them members of the country's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). BDP parliament member Ertugral Kurkcu says the detentions have little to do with fighting terrorism and more to do with undermining the political party.

"These people are kidnapped. They have no guilt. Many of them elected people," said Kurkcu. "Many of them trade union leaders. All influential politicians, middle men in Kurdish politics. They have no relation with violence. They have not even been accused of being affiliated with any kind of violent action."

Hammerberg echoed such concerns, saying he believes in many cases there appeared to be little evidence to justify the detentions. Many of those detained in the probe have been held for years without trial. The Council of Europe report also raised pretrial detention as an area of serious concern.

Hammerberg claims his interviews with members of the judiciary suggest pretrial detention is being used as a punishment.

"I was discussing with a prosecutor in Diyarbakir and spelling out there should be reasons to detain someone before the final trial, and he said at least they will learn a lesson. But why does the penitentiary system take on, teach lessons to people who perhaps may be innocent?" Asked Hammerberg. "There have been cases up to 10 years. That [is] absolutely outrageous. No one should be held before [being] proven guilty for such long periods."

Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) march with posters of their leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu during a protest against the government in central Istanbul, January 10, 2012
Supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) march with posters of their leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu during a protest against the government in central Istanbul, January 10, 2012

The leader of the main opposition People's Republican Party, or CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, strongly attacked pretrial detention earlier this month, and claimed that Turkey is becoming "an open prison." Two of his parliamentary deputies have been held in jail for more than three years, as part an investigation into an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled against Turkey on the issue of pretrial detention.  Facing mounting criticism, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin announced a package of reforms that include addressing pre-trial detention.

He said decisions pertaining to arrest, or the refusal of a request for release on bail, will now have to be clearly written out. He said the courts will have to justify with concrete facts any strong suspicion that a defendant will commit a crime. He said they will have to make clear the purpose behind a detention and ensure that it is reasonable.

Riza Turmen, a deputy for the main opposition and a former judge for the European Court of Human Rights, says the reforms are cosmetic, and that the reform does not apply to anyone held in connection with anti-terror laws. He adds that controversial portions of those laws have resulted in the detention of nearly 100 journalists - another area of concern raised by the Council of Europe report.  

But Turmen argues a more fundamental threat is facing Turkey. "The problem today in Turkey [is], there is enormous concentration of power in the hands of one party," he said. "The government controls the judiciary. The government controls all the independent institutions. Turkey has never seen such a big concentration of power, and such a concentration of power is detrimental to any democracy."

In his report, Hammerberg expresses concern about the government's influence on Turkey's judiciary. He acknowledges that Turkey faces a serious problem of terrorism and says the government's commitment to reform appears to be genuine, but now is the time for action.

"We are still waiting for implementation of signals we have received from the government," said Hammerberg. "It's a question of real implementation, not only talks and statements, when it comes to reforms and genuine changes."

In the early years of its decade-long rule, the AK Party won praise in combating torture and ending extra-judicial killings. But observers warn that good will is fast running out with the main opposition parties, along with a growing body of evidence - of which the Council of Europe report is the latest - that raises concerns about increasing authoritarian tendencies.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid