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Statement by the Chair and Rapporteur on Büyükada trial - 2 July 2020

2 July 2020

Leading MEPs call on Turkey to protect human rights defenders and leave open space for civil society and pluralism, which is a key element of the accession process.

The European Parliament´s standing rapporteur for Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), and the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky,(Greens/EFA, DE) said:

"After recent disappointing judiciary decisions on landmark cases such as the one of Osman Kavala, the final hearing and sentence tomorrow of the emblematic 'Büyükada case' represents a decisive opportunity to clarify if Turkey abides by its international commitments and standards or if the country further moves apart from them.

We believe that a true, open space for civil society and pluralism is a fundamental pillar for any democratic society and it is a key element of the accession process. In this regard, the activities of human rights defenders should be protected by the state, not prosecuted.

We remain hopeful that the upcoming judiciary decision will mark a change of course and not yet another blow against the independent civil society in Turkey, whose space has shrunk dramatically over the last years.

We encourage Turkish authorities to advance towards a serious judicial reform, bringing it into line with the required standards of the EU and those of the Council of Europe, of which the country is a full member. In this sense, the respect and enforcement of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights remains an indispensable first step."

Background

The 'Büyükada trial' involves 11 human rights defenders who risk up to 15 years of jail term on alleged terrorism-related charges. Ten activists were detained in a police raid in July 2017, while attending a digital security training workshop on Büyükada island, off Istanbul. They were charged with aiding terrorist organizations, including the network led by the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, which the Turkish government blames for the 2016 coup attempt. The 11th activist, Amnesty International´s former Turkey chairman, Taner Kilic, was detained separately a month earlier in the city of Izmir and accused of membership in Fethullah Gülen's network.

The other ten accused persons are: İdil Eser (Former Director of AI Turkey); Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association and member of AI Turkey); Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens' Assembly and founding member of AI Turkey); Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association and member of AI Turkey); Ali Gharavi (Swedish national, Digital strategy and wellbeing consultant); Peter Steudtner (German national, non-violent communication, digital strategy and well-being consultant); Nalan Erkem (lawyer, Citizens' Assembly and a member of AI Turkey); İlknur Üstün (Women's Coalition); Şeyhmus Özbekli (lawyer, Rights Initiative); and Nejat Taştan (Association for Monitoring Equal Rights).

Statement by Chair and Rapporteur on the support package for Syrian refugees, 3 June

3 June 2020

Leading MEPs welcome the support package for Syrian refugees of EUR 585 million

Funds to bridge the gap until the entry into force of the next EU long-term budget in 2021.
Any EU funding for refugees in Turkey has to be monitored effectively by the EU delegation to Turkey.


"The EU has shown that it remains committed to improving the situation of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey", stress MEPs.

European Parliament standing rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), and the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE), said:

"With today's decision, the EU has shown that it remains committed to improving the situation of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey.

Following two visits at the beginning of the year, the European Parliament is well aware of the continuing needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey and knows that the decision on the new funds is urgent, as some of the most relevant programmes will run out of funds in September 2020.

We have always praised and appreciated the role that Turkey is playing, currently hosting the largest refugee population in the world, including 3.7 million Syrian refugees. Regardless of the way in which some try to use migration and refugee issues for political leverage, the reality is that refugee populations in Turkey continue to need support and the EU should keep fairly contributing to these vulnerable populations.

We therefore welcome this new support package, which comes on top of the existing EUR 6 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. The new funds will benefit Syrian refugees directly and will be administered by international organisations, not by the Turkish authorities.

If approved by Parliament and the Council, these funds will go directly to refugee families through two main EU humanitarian support actions in Turkey: the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) - providing monthly cash transfers to around 1,7 million refugees, currently implemented by the International Federation of the Red Cross - and the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) - providing cash to refugee families whose children attend school instead of working, currently managed by UNICEF.

We reiterate that any EU funding for refugees in Turkey has to be monitored effectively by the EU delegation so we can guarantee that neither EU money nor any facilities funded by the EU are being used to forcefully return refugees to Syria. Any returns to Syria have to be safe, dignified and voluntary, with the involvement of the UNHCR."

Background

On 3 June 2020, the Commission adopted a support package for Syrian refugees of EUR 585 million in the form of a draft amending budget (DAB). These funds are intended to benefit Syrian refugees in Turkey (EUR 485 million), as well as in Jordan and Lebanon (EUR 100 million combined).

The proposed funds are intended to bridge the gap until the entry into force of the next multi-annual financial framework in January 2021.

Next steps

As funds for the package will come from the European Union budget, the European Parliament and the Council have to approve the Commission proposal.

Statement by Chair and Rapporteur on the law on release of prisoners in Turkey, 15-04

15 April 2020

COVID-19: Law on release of prisoners in Turkey is "a great disappointment"

- Law that should save lives from overcrowded prisons is discriminatory

- EU must address this problem with Turkey at all levels

- European Court for Human Rights should speed up verdicts in the cases of citizens imprisoned in Turkey for political reasons

- The EU is ready to support Turkey in its fight against the virus

Turkish ruling parties have decided to "deliberately expose the lives of those whom they consider political opponents to the risk of the deadly COVID-19 virus", warn MEPs.

European Parliament standing rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), and Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE), said:

"The legal amendments by the Turkish Parliament allowing the release of 90.000 prisoners, but excluding those imprisoned for their political activities and citizens in pre-trial detention, is a great disappointment. We had hoped that the Turkish Parliament would adopt a fair, responsible and non-discriminatory law that would save lives from being lost in overcrowded Turkish prisons. Such a law is needed, especially for those unjustly detained and imprisoned for political reasons. Instead, the Turkish ruling parties have decided to deliberately expose the lives of journalists, human rights defenders and those whom they deem to be political opponents to the risk of the deadly disease COVID 19.

The EU and its member states must address this problem with their Turkish counterparts at all levels. We also call upon the European Court for Human Rights to speed up necessary verdicts in the cases of citizens imprisoned and detained in Turkey for political reasons, but also to save lives, given the risk of epidemics in overcrowded Turkish prisons.

We express our continued solidarity with the Turkish people in these difficult times, in which we are all together on the same side in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We acknowledge Turkey's readiness to help and sincerely appreciate Turkish medical support to foreign countries, including to EU countries like Italy and Spain. We reiterate that the EU is also ready to support Turkey in its fight against the virus. This challenge is huge and we want to fight it together in a democratic and non-discriminatory manner, saving the lives of all citizens regardless of their political views, affiliations or convictions."

Background

To curb the spread of the coronavirus in its prisons, Turkey´s parliament passed a law on Monday that allows tens of thousands of prisoners to be temporarily released or released early. These measures exclude persons sentenced for murder, sexual and drug-related offences and those jailed on terrorism charges. The new measures have been criticised by opposition parties and human rights organisations, as people convicted under anti-terrorism laws include journalists, lawyers, political and human rights activists.

According to the Turkish justice minister, there were 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among prisoners, including three deaths. At the end of March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on governments to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities, as part of overall efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statement by Chair and Rapporteur on fight against COVID-19 in Turkey, 30 March 2020

Turkey: non-discriminatory release of prisoners in fight against COVID-19

MEPs express their solidarity and support for the increasing efforts to fight the pandemic in Turkey

European Parliament's standing Rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES), and Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE), said:

"We would like to express our solidarity with the Turkish people in these difficult times.

Whatever the state of play of our political relationship, we are all on the same side in this and we need to act together to fight the pandemic. We call on the European Commission and the member states to include Turkey in the efforts that the EU is making in this combat, also by mobilising funds from the EU Solidarity Fund or other instruments to help Turkey, if Ankara requests this.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We welcome the Turkish government's plan to substitute prison time with alternatives such as early parole or house arrest, which could apply to up to 100.000 inmates. This measure is in line with the recent call made by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to all governments.

However, it is crucial to apply this in a non-discriminatory and objective way, based on health criteria and on the risks that released prisoners may pose to society.

In Turkey, there are currently hundreds of journalists, lawyers, judges, prosecutors, politicians, academics, human rights defenders, artists and others who are in pre-trial detention or serving sentences without evidence that they committed any violent act or crime. To exempt them from the early release measures would represent an aggravated punishment and unjustified unfair treatment, as they do not represent any risk to public security. We urge the Turkish authorities to follow the call made by the UN High Commissioner and release every person detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting political views".

Statement by leading MEPs on the acquittal of the Gezi Park protesters, 20 Feb 2020

Statement by leading MEPs on EU-Turkey relations following Tuesday's acquittal by a Turkish court of nine of Istanbul's detained Gezi Park protesters, including cultural patron Osman Kavala.

"We welcome today's important and positive decision by a Turkish court to acquit the defendants of the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, including cultural patron and philanthropist Osman Kavala. We also welcome the announcement that arrest warrants will be lifted for seven other defendants being tried. However, difficult issues remain. This decisive moment must now be followed up by meaningful steps in restoring the rule of law and the further credibility of the Turkish justice system".

The statement was co-signed by the Chair of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights Maria Arena (S&D, BE), the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE) and the European Parliament's Standing Rapporteur on Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES).

More information

Members of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights also discussed the worsening situation of artists, journalists, academics and lawyers in Turkey, on Tuesday morning. During the meeting, they took stock of the latest developments with regard to the human rights situation in the country, including of the notorious Büyükada trial, which will have its final trial hearing at the Istanbul Palace of Justice on Wednesday morning. This case concerns eleven Turkish lawyers who have been detained for allegedly assisting a terrorist organisation and for being members of such an organisation.

During the debate, MEPs also restated that they strongly condemn the use of the Turkish justice system for political purposes, discussed the situation of academia and journalists, and addressed the ongoing repression against several of the members of the famous Turkish Yorum music group, known for their political song writing, which have had terrorism-related charges brought forward against them.


Statement of the Chair on Osman Kavala's Detainment, 20 February 2020

On 18 February 2020, businessman and intellectual Osman Kavala was arrested on new grounds, only hours after the Turkish court at the high-security prison in Silivri had acquitted him and eight other defendants in the so-called Gezi trial.

Sergey Lagodinsky, Chair of the European Parliament delegation to the EU-Turkey JPC, comments:

"Osman Kavala's renewed detainment is another tragic disappointment for him, his family and all those who had continued to hope for Turkey's return to democracy.

The disappointment is bitter, but it is little surprise. As in many other cases like those of Ahmet Altan or Selahattin Demirtaş, the Turkish judicial authorities opted for an inhumane path. No judicial reform packages can conceal the essential problem: the relationship between real or false security concerns and civil rights is out of balance. Any anti-terrorist policies of the Turkish government exceed the limits of the acceptable once they violate human and civil rights.

It is time to return to the unconditional rule of law and to implement comprehensive judicial and legislative reforms. The Kavala case shows that we are not getting anywhere with hopes for individual "reasonable judges" or "good will" from the rulers. The only way forward is Turkey's systemic return to the principles of rule of law and judicial independence.

My thoughts are with Osman Kavala, his family and friends. We will not give up and will continue to fight for his freedom and the freedom of all those unjustly imprisoned and persecuted in Turkey. It is difficult to imagine any normalisation of relations with Turkey before their rights have been fully reinstated."

Background: In their pleadings in the beginning of February, the prosecutor had requested life-long sentences for Osman Kavala and two other defendants, as well as sentences between 15 and 20 years for several other defendants. Mr Kavala has been detained since November 2017, being accused of "attempting to overthrow the government" in the context of the Gezi Park protests in 2013. On 10 December 2019, the European Court of Human Rights recognized Mr Kavala's detention as arbitrary and ordered his immediate release.

Statement of the Chair on MEP denied right to monitor a trial in Turkey, 17 Feb 2020

Statement by the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee

On 13 February 2020, Turkish authorities denied Member of the European Parliament Özlem Demirel (GUE/NGL, DE) the right to monitor a court hearing in Ankara.

Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE), the Chair of the European Parliament's Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, made the following statement:

"It is unacceptable that my colleague Özlem Demirel was denied the right to monitor the court hearing. So far, such observation visits have been common practice in our bilateral cooperation. I consider the order to my second deputy in the EU-Turkey delegation, Ms Demirel, to leave the court building, a crude departure from our common practice, a provocation and a covert personal threat. I strongly condemn my colleague being treated in this way.

Such incidents could further strain our bilateral parliamentary relations and ultimately destroy any remaining confidence in democratic culture in Turkey. The European Parliament and the German Federal Government must request a comprehensive clarification of the incident."


Background

Özlem Demirel travelled to Turkey in her capacity as a Member of the European Parliament and as an international observer in order to support the families of the victims and to monitor the trial following the bombing of a peaceful demonstration on 10 October 2015.

Statement of the Chair on Turkey's military action in Syria, 11 October 2019

On Wednesday, 9 October 2019 Turkish military forces have launched an offensive in Northern Syria.

Dr Sergey Lagodinsky, Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee of the European Parliament, comments:

"I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian, geopolitical and bilateral costs of this intervention.

I recognize Turkey's legitimate security interests in the region, however this military operation will in no way advance peace in the region and will jeopardize the Turkish position in the long term.

We acknowledge the exceptional efforts that Turkey has demonstrated by hosting so many Syrian refugees. This is why the EU has been contributing to those efforts financially. However, we must ensure that the EU will not finance any resettlements of refugees outside of the Turkish territory. We should neither condone nor finance forceful demographic shifts in Northern Syria, especially those that come at cost of people who already had to flee their homes once.

The unilateral withdrawal of US troops is a strategic blow for the region and contains considerable spill-over risks for Europe. But the situation following the American announcement also proves the urgent need for a coherent, coordinated and effective common EU foreign and security policy. The fact that the EU never became a responsible political actor for peace in Syria proves that a lot of homework is to be done by the European Union itself.

The Turkish-EU relationship deserves a positive agenda. The invasion of Turkish troops in Syria is a serious disruption for any future partnership."

Interparliamentary delegations start establishing their bureaus, 26 September 2019

Delegations are electing their bureaus, each of them consisting of a Chair and two Vice-Chairs.

At the constitutive meetings on Thursday, 26 September, most of 44 interparliamentary delegations of the European Parliament decided on their Chairs and Vice-Chairs. Once the elections have taken place, the names of the new Bureaus' members will be published on the Delegations' website. (Check the respective homepage of each delegation.)

Interparliamentary delegations maintain relations and conduct policy dialogues with parliamentarians in other countries, regions and organisations to promote the EU's core values: liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

There are 44 standing interparliamentary delegations in this legislative period, the same number as in the last parliamentary term. Most of them have the same structure: they have a Chair and two Vice-Chairs, except for delegations to parliamentary assemblies (such as ACP, Eurolat, Euromed and Euronest), which are led by larger bureaus. Parliament's diversity in terms of geography and gender must be reflected in the composition of the bureau of each delegation; it shall not be permissible to have an all-male or all-female bureau or for both of the vice-chairs to come from the same member state (Rule 223 and Rule 213).