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

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs