News / Europe

Turkey's Proposed Judicial Reform Insufficient, says Rights Group

Dorian Jones
Turkey's proposed judicial reform package may not go far enough, according to U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.  The proposed reforms are intended to end Turkey's record run of violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkish Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin claims his judicial reform package, introduced in parliament earlier this month, seeks to end the country’s negative image at the European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR.

Ergin admits that Turkey is the country with the highest number of violations at the ECHR, but said his government had examined those violations and drafted this proposal to remedy violations originating from Turkish legislation.
 
The reform package will end the time limitation for prosecuting torture cases, but not for cases of extra-judicial killings. Bail conditions have been eased in anti-terror cases. The country’s controversial terrorist propaganda law is also being narrowed to only include cases that directly incite violence. The reforms are backed by human rights groups and the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join. But Emma Sinclair Webb, Turkey researcher for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch, while welcoming such reforms, points out their effect may be limited.

"Most people are not in jail for terrorist propaganda, but are in jail for membership of an armed organization," said Sinclair Webb. "There, the threshold of evidence, the burden of proof is so much lower, that all sorts of legitimate activities get counted as membership of a terrorist organization even though the person has not advocated violence or directly committed violence activities."

Under the current anti-terror law, any individual can be considered to be a member of a terrorist organization if they write or say a phrase considered to be the same view of that terror group. The law is responsible for the jailing of scores of journalists, making Turkey, according to human rights groups and the EU, the world’s worst jailer of journalists. Of the 38,000 convictions worldwide for terrorism offenses since 2001, Turkey accounts for a third, according to a survey carried out last year by the Associated Press. The overwhelming majority of cases are against Kurdish activists in connection with the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebel group the PKK. Gultan Kisanak of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, claims the government reforms don’t go far enough.
 
"There are anti-democratic laws, and unfortunately this package of legal reforms is insufficient, he said, adding that he sees it as "a waste of parliament's time." Kisanak says steps need to be taken to lift barriers to Kurdish rights, including the rights of thousands of Kurdish prisoners.
 
That disappointment comes as government-inspired peace efforts to end the conflict with the PKK is starting a bear fruit, with the rebel group last week announcing a ceasefire. The U.S. based group Human Rights Watch claimed in a press release claimed a more ambitious judicial reform package that would free Kurdish activists could expedite the current peace process.

But observers point out peace efforts are at critical point and the prime minister has made clear there can be no concessions or even formalization of peace talks until the PKK withdraws and disarms. The justice minister has ruled out any connection between the reform package and the peace process, insisting it is only aimed at bringing Turkey into line with the European Court. But Riza Turmen, a former judge at the European Court of Human Rights and now a member of the main opposition, claims this latest reform package, like its three predecessors, promises more than it delivers.

"All of these reform packages, they do bring some cosmetic changes, but they do not improve the overall situation in Turkey," said Turmen. "When you come to the fourth package, there will still be violations of freedom of expression. There will not be any major changes as far as the judgments of European Court of Human Rights."

Turkey now has 17,000 outstanding cases at the European Court - second only to Russia. Analysts say the ultimate test of the effectiveness of the current reform package will be the number of cases that reach the court.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
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 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 Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
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 Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
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.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid