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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs