MEPs from DROI and EP Delegation to EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee held a discussion today on the state of play in the area of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in Turkey.
They expressed profound concern at the on-going deterioration in fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey. Thousands of human rights defenders and members of independent civil society organisations are facing arbitrary detention and judicial and administrative harassment.
“The increasing harassments of human rights defenders, academics, civil servants, journalists, and artists culminated with the recent detention of Mr Osman Kavala, one of the most prominent and respected figures in Turkey’s arts and culture scene...a bridge-builder, a man of dialogue and reconciliation,” said Pier Antonio PANZERI, the Chair of the Subcommittee.
Other cases were raised during the debate such as Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Engin Gökoğlu, two lawyers, imprisoned together with 15 other colleagues from the People's Law Office. MEPs also expressed dismay at the decision by the Istanbul court to extend the pre-trial detention of Taner Kiliç the Chair of Amnesty International in Turkey together with a number of fellow human rights defenders.
The rightful place of national and local elected representatives, human rights defenders, Turkish democrats, critical voices and all free minds is certainly not in prison but outside, using their talents and energy to foster the vibrant civil society that is well known for having contributed over the last few decades to creating an open and prosperous Turkey.
MEPs called on the Turkish authorities to respect their international obligations, and to uphold democracy, the rule of law and universal human rights principles.
They have also called on the EU Delegation to take the lead together with Member State embassies in Ankara to provide coordinating support and, where necessary, public backing to Human Rights Defenders, notably by monitoring and observing trials, making prison visits and statements addressing the Turkish authorities at all levels.
Both experts Pierini and Insel agreed that "Supporting Turkey's HR defenders and civil society will be a major challenge for the EU in the years ahead: while accession is at an impasse, it is vital for the future of the country that the EU finds ways and means to provide support to the population that looks at the EU as a reference point, whatever the form of the political relationship will be".
Reiterating the EU’s willingness to cooperate with Turkey, in its role as a key partner, in addressing the serious regional challenges, Chair KEFALOGIANNIS stated, “It is always better to speak with each other rather about each other.” He added, “Only an open and honest political dialogue can help to overcome mistrust and stereotypes. It is therefore regrettable that the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee has not met since the spring of 2015. The EP delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee is committed to continuing intensive efforts to revive our inter-parliamentary dialogue and will also continue to follow closely developments in Turkey.”