The 7th International EUTCC Annual conference has once more brought together contributors including leading academics, writers, legal experts, human rights organizations and prominent Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals from all over the world to debate over two days the progress that has been made in Turkey’s bid for accession to the European Union and examine the situation of human rights in Turkey and how the country can move towards a peaceful future.
As regards accession, the EUTCC notes the progress cited in the 2010 European Commission Progress Report on Turkey including some substantive internal reforms within Turkey. In particular, the EUTCC applauds the progress Turkey has made on the cultural rights of its Kurdish citizens and the relaxation of laws banning the use of Kurdish on TV, radio and in prisons. We also applaud the recent constitutional amendments but regret that the adoption was not preceded by a process of consultation with political parties and civil society organisations. However, events in the past year have indicated that there is still a long way to go, and more concrete steps must be made by both Turkey and the EU.
The Conference takes for its title this year ‘The Road to Peace –Facing the Challenge’ in response to the current situation. The EUTCC welcomes recent steps taken by the Turkish Government in reforming their Penal Code and Constitution. However it is concerned that alongside these reforms there continues to be repression of free speech and legitimate political expression, and that the conflict in the south-east continues.
Pursuant to the presentation of Conference papers and interventions made by delegates, this Conference resolves to adopt the following declarations and calls for action to be undertaken by relevant parties to the conflict in the Kurdish Regions of Turkey:
• Recalling the resolutions from the 1st – 6th International Conferences on EU, Turkey and the Kurds, the Conference continues to give its qualified support to Turkey’s bid for EU accession.
• Noting the EU Commission’s 2010 Turkey Progress Report, specific areas of concern include freedom of expression and association, access to justice and independence of the judiciary, freedom of religion, children’s rights, gender equality and the harsh treatment of human rights defenders.
• The EUTCC recalls those resolutions from the 6th Annual Conference which have not yet been actioned, and urge all parties to fully commit to a process of negotiation and dialogue.
The 7th EUTCC Conference adopts the following resolutions:
1) The Conference reiterates, that the EU must hold Turkey to the standards laid out as criteria for accession, rigorously monitor Turkey’s progress, exert pressure on Turkey to implement further reforms, and most importantly, follow up on these conditions to ensure that concrete progress is made and that any gains made remain permanent. Turkey must fulfil its obligations both under international law and as set out in the Copenhagen Criteria. There must be no leeway in negotiations when it comes to the assessment of whether the Copenhagen Criteria has been met;
2) The conference reiterates resolution 3 & 4 of the 6th Annual Conference, which call on Turkey to immediately ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) to bring it into line with international human rights standards on the prohibition of torture and thus provide for systematic torture prevention and for independent monitoring of detention centres. Further, with reference to the judgements of the ECtHR in several cases, including the case of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan vs. Turkey, regarding conditions of detention in Turkey the Conference calls on the Turkish government to implement the ECtHR judgement and CPT (Committee on Prevention of Torture) recommendations on conditions of detention specifically relating to the health of Mr. Öcalan.
3) The Turkish state must end its continued use of articles of the criminal code to prosecute writers, journalists, intellectuals, lawyers and many other defenders of free speech. Turkish anti-terror and press laws such as Article 301 are still being used to restrict legitimate freedom of the press while others, such as Articles 220 and 314 are increasingly bring used to prosecute politicians and demonstrators. The Conference calls on the EU to ensure that Turkey remove restrictions on freedom of expression from their legal framework entirely. The Conference asks the EU to closely monitor the number of investigations opened and prosecutions launched in Turkey in relation to the expression of non-violent opinions, including cases where these do not result in convictions and must allow the freedom of expression of Roj TV and other Kurdish media channels in Europe.
4) The EU should assist —both politically and financially— in the creation of a democratic platform for dialogue between Turkey and Kurdish representatives aimed at finding a peaceful and sustainable solution to the Kurdish issue and fully comply with their own freedom of expression obligations in respect of those Kurdish organizations and individuals who are concerned to promote the same. Local and regional authorities should be consulted in deciding how financial aid should be spent;
5) EU member states must end the criminalisation of peaceful dissent of Turkey, echoed by Kurdish organizations situated in Europe, and seriously review the legal basis of, and decisions to proscribe certain Kurdish organizations. In addition they must ensure that other individuals and groups are able to lend their support to these organisations without fear of intimidation or harassment.
6) This Conference reiterates resolution 17 of the 6th Annual Conference that called Turkey to remove the 10 per cent threshold of the vote in parliamentary election, as it is out of step with European electoral norms, and a violation of the right to free elections as provided for by Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR. This must be implemented in time for the 2011 elections.
7) The Conference urges the EU to support Turkey in its move toward decentralisation and the devolution of power to local government and to encourage public participation in local government and foster a democratic governance model. The Council of Europe must put pressure on Turkey to implement the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
8) This Conference reiterates resolution 23 of the 6th Annual conference which calls on the Turkish State to immediately ratify the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and accept the jurisdiction of the ICC over genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, if its national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute such crimes. The EU must continue to put pressure on Turkey to ratify the statute in line with European Union values;
9) Turkey must ratify the European Framework Convention on the Protection of Minorities as well as other UN Instruments concerning minorities and respect the existing cultural and rights of all minority groups in Turkey. The conference calls on the EU to apply pressure on the Government of Turkey as a potential member of the EU to ratify the Framework. Recalling Articles 10, and 14, and Article 2 of the first Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 8 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages, and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly’s resolution 1519 of October 2006 on the cultural situation of the Kurds. In addition the Conference reiterates its call to the State of Turkey and the European Union to develop and promote a strategic plan for mother tongue education;
10) The Conference reiterates its call for Turkey to address the dire situation of women in Turkey who are at high risk of violence both domestically, and from state actors, have high rates of illiteracy, especially in the Kurdish region of Turkey, and who are woefully underrepresented in the political sphere. The Conference agrees with the European Commission’s Turkey 2010 Progress Report’s statement that legislation needs to be implemented consistently across the country and that further training and awareness-raising on women’s rights and gender equality are needed. The conference further calls on Turkey to remedy the widespread lack of implementation and enforcement of the National Action Plan and urges Turkey to adopt a comprehensive approach to women’s rights in consultation and co-operation with Kurdish women to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 . The international community must support Turkey in the development and implementation of this plan.
11) The Conference notes that no further provision has been made in Turkey for the vast number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are unable to return to their villages without government support and also face political difficulties. The EU could play a vital role in assisting Turkey and exerting political pressure to remedy the situation of IDPs. The Conference reiterates its call upon the EU to make this a vital criterion to the accession of the EU, to monitor the situation with regards to IDPs and their conditions, using expert advice as well as state reports, and to follow up on such monitoring.
12) The Conference calls on the Turkish government to immediately cease the illegal expropriation of land related to the development of the Ilisu Dam, and notes that there is still no consultation plan, or plan for the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons in place, and calls upon the EU and international community to abstain from funding or supporting the project.
13) The conference calls upon the Turkish army to cease the intentional and systematic burning of forests in the East and southeast of Turkey as a part of their counterinsurgency campaign. The destruction of forests, crops, livestock, foodstuffs, seeds, buildings, and other assets that have economic, cultural, and biological values is in breach with international humanitarian law, including the 1976 Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD) and the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. It further urges Turkey accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and cease its use of antipersonnel landmine Turkey as it is bound by the Mine Ban Treaty , which prohibits the use of antipersonnel mines in any circumstances.
14) The Conference underlines its view that the resolution of the armed conflict between Turkey and the PKK is essential to the establishment of a stable, democratic and peaceful Turkey capable of entering the European Union. True democratic reform can only occur if Turkey undertakes new political reform to its state institutions and banishes adherence to ethnic ultra-nationalism, which is the root cause of the conflict and Turkey’s endemic instability. The conference notes that the resolution of the armed conflict is central to regional stability and all parties should publicly re-commit to pursuing non-violent means to end the conflict.
Proposals for a negotiated settlement to the conflict could include:
15) In the interest of obtaining a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Kurdish issue, the Conference urges Turkey to institute a democratic participation process for all political parties and civil society organisation, beginning with the release of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan and the recognition of the PKK as a non-terrorist group;
16) The Conference urges the EU and the United States to remove the PKK from their proscription lists in order to facilitate negotiations. We encourage the current reported discussions between the representatives of the Turkish state and Mr. Abdullah Öcalan and call on Turkey to go further still, by putting in place a process to establish the truth about the past.
17) A truth and reconciliation commission should be established to recommend measures to bring an end to the conflict.
18) The Turkish government must invite The Elders to mediate a negotiated settlement with representatives of all political parties and civil society organisations including constitution-making for a democratic constitution, as pledged by Prime Minister Erdogan following the September referendum. The Conference would like to extend its thanks and appreciation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu for his support and involvement in the move towards a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue;
The Conference further asserts that more must and can be done on all sides and calls for the following measures to be adopted for the creation of a climate of peace:
19) The Conference calls on the Turkish government to respond to the PKK’s ceasefire and cease all cross-border military operations and urges Turkey to respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, human rights and the rule of law and to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided. These military operations are undermining the Kurdish Regional Government and threatening regional stability;
20) The Conference urges the Turkish government to ensure that all minorities in Turkey, including the Kurds, are given full cultural and political rights in accordance with its obligations under the Council of Europe and EU accession criteria.
21) The Conference calls upon all political parties in Turkey to help foster the conditions within Turkey for a democratic platform for dialogue and for the EU member states to strongly and publicly support all EU requirements concerning democratic and legal reform within Turkey. In particular, the Conference calls upon the Turkish Government to ensure that all legally constituted democratic parties are allowed to engage in peaceful political activity without interference in accordance with Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It further calls upon the Turkish Government to immediately cease the harassment and politically-motivated investigations of Kurdish politicians and to immediately release on bail the 151 Kurdish politicians, lawyers, mayors and civil society leaders who are part of the so-called KCK trial along with the thousands of others who remain in detention. The EU must unambiguously condemn the arrest and detention of politicians and human rights defenders who have been supportive of the state’s Kurdish population and ensure that political freedoms are protected. The EU should clarify what action they will take on this.
22) The Conference calls on all members of the EU to negotiate in good faith with the view of Turkey obtaining accession to the EU as long as Turkey meets its membership obligations
The EUTCC Conference resolves to periodically make recommendations of measures for the Turkish accession process, the protection of human rights and the situation of the Kurds.