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

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid