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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

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