The 5th International Annual conference has brought together contributors from all over the world including leading academics, writers, legal experts, human rights organizations and prominent Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals.
While the Conference welcomes the steps that have been taken in reforms since the conference last met, there is still a long way to go to get the process of accession moving again since it stalled in 2007. The title of this conference is ‘Time for Change’ but the initiative for change in Turkey must not come from within that country alone. The EU must take the lead in finding a peaceful resolution to this ongoing problem. It is essential that all of the groups involved make this a priority if the accession process is to move forward once more.
In addition to the above, 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
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.
The Conference issues the following declarations:
The Conference notes that neither EU nor Turkey has publicly tackled the long-standing issue of the Kurdish issue which is central to the realisation of democracy, stability, and human rights in Turkey.
The Conference notes that the 2007 European Commission progress report on Turkish accession found that "no major issue has been addressed and significant problems persist", and joins with the Commission in urging Turkey to confront these problems;
The Conference notes that the 2008 European Commission progress report on Turkish accession took note of "the process underway to prepare a new, civilian constitution; regards it as a key opportunity to place the protection of human rights and freedoms at the core of the constitution; reiterates that a system of checks and balances needs to be established, guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, social cohesion and the separation between religion and state; underlines the need for a broad involvement of civil society in this process…" The report also expresses concern about "the hostility shown to minorities and about politically and religiously motivated violence; calls on the Turkish Government to…make sustained efforts to create an environment conducive to full respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms"
Recalling the resolutions from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th International Conferences on EU, Turkey and the Kurds, the Conference continues to give its qualified support to Turkey’s bid for EU accession.
1) The Conference takes note of the European Commission’s assessment of the continued downward trend in the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment and the positive effect of the relevant legislative safeguards; however, it is concerned about whether the anti-terror law and the law on police powers will weaken this positive record;
2) The Conference notes the progress made with regards to the efficiency of the judiciary, welcomes the Turkish governments plan to implement a reform strategy designed to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and to increase the confidence enjoyed by the judiciary amongst the public; is of the view that this strategy should ensure that interpretation of legislation related to human rights and fundamental freedoms is in line with ECHR standards. The Conference notes with concern that in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights handed down by far more judgements against Turkey for violations of the ECHR than against any other country, including against Russia;
3) The Conference welcomes the declaration of two ceasefires by the PKK on 1st September 2005 and 1st October 2006, and hereby once again calls upon all relevant parties involved in the armed conflict in Turkey to forthwith stop all hostile military operations in the region including Northern Iraq (South Kurdistan) and henceforth pursue non-violent resolutions to the conflict;
4) The Conference notes that though Turkey has made progress in some areas, much work remains to be done, and stresses that the EU must hold Turkey to the standards laid out as criteria for accession, must 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. In its turn, Turkey must fulfil its obligations both under international law and as set out in the Copenhagen Criteria.
This Conference calls upon the European Union/EU governments to:
5) The Conference calls upon the European Union to strongly and publicly support all EU requirements concerning democratic and legal reform within Turkey;
6) With specific reference to the 2007 European Commission progress report, the European Parliament report on the increasing suicide of Kurdish women in Turkey, as well as recalling the 2005 CEDAW response to Turkish Report to the Committee,) the Conference calls on the EU to ensure that Turkey address the status of all women and girls in the context of international standards, particularly considering the high rates of illiteracy, domestic violence, honor killing, suicide and forced and early marriages in Turkey, for which the lack of requisite services and judicial training fail to guarantee legal protections (and in particular notes the need to address the regional disparity in the position of women through education, literacy, access to meaningful employment, political representation and access to justice);
7) Furthermore, with reference to the above, it requests the European Union to use all it powers to ensure that the Turkish Government develops, in consultation and co-operation with Kurdish women a National Action Plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Resolution (S/RES/1325), passed on 31st October 2000, is the first resolution ever passed by the Security Council that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and women’s contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace; and requires that women are equal participants in all peace-building measures
8) The Conference also urges each member state of the European Union to assist -including by earmarking funds- in the creation of a democratic platform for dialogue between Turkey and Kurdish representatives 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;
9) The Conference reiterates that the Governments of the EU should not criminalize peaceful dissent of Turkey echoed by Kurdish organizations situated in Europe and to review its proscription of certain Kurdish organizations, especially in the light of public commitments to the search for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question within the present territorial integrity of a democratically reformed Turkey;
10) The Conference renews its mandate for its directors, advisors and committees, to engage and campaign on both a political and civic level across Europe in support of Turkey’s accession bid to join the European Union on the basis of this resolution.
This Conference calls upon the Turkish Government to:
11) The Conference notes with alarm the failure of certain institutions, including but not limited to the military and the police, within the Turkish State apparatus to adhere to its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and international humanitarian law in accordance with the spirit and terms of its own recent reform packages and commitments given under the accession process; in particular, it is dismayed that institutions of the State have continued its military activities, which primarily affect its Kurdish citizens;
12) The Conference notes that it has become clear over the last 30 years that there is no military solution to the ongoing armed conflict in Turkey;
13) The Conference welcomes the fact that in 2007 democracy prevailed over attempts by the military to interfere in the political process; encourages the Turkish government to make further systematic efforts to ensure that the democratically elected political leadership bears the full responsibility for formulation of domestic, foreign and security policy and that the armed forces respect this civilian responsibility; points out the need to establish full parliamentary oversight of military and defence policy and all related expenditure;
14) The Conference notes that there is evidence suggesting that the government and military are trying to influence the judiciary and calls upon the Turkish government and military to refrain from such interference and ensure a free and fair judicial system. Furthermore, the Conference encourages Turkish authorities to pursue investigations into the Ergenekon affair, noting the opportunity for Turkey to investigate cases related to the Deep State, such as disappearances, torture, extra judicial killings, etc., but stresses that relevant rules and procedures should be followed and that impartiality and fair trials should be guaranteed for all without exception;
15) The Conference calls upon Turkey to fully investigate the murders of Hrant Dink and of the three Christians in Matalya, as well as other cases of politically or religiously motivated violence, including full clarification of allegations of negligence on the part of the competent authorities, and to bring those responsible to justice;
16) The Conference expresses its deep concern over Turkey’s employment of articles of the criminal code to prosecute writers, journalists, intellectuals, lawyers and many other defenders of free speech, including articles 215 (praising an offence and offender), 216 (incitement to hatred), 217 (provocation to disobey the law), 220, para. 8 (making propaganda for a criminal organization), 288 (attempt to influence a fair trial) and 301 (insulting the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, Institutions and Bodies of the State) of the Turkish Penal Code; the Conference calls on the EU to ensure that Turkey remove restrictions on freedom of expression from their legal framework entirely;
17) The Conference urges the Turkish government and the parliament to go further in its reform of Article 301 of the Penal Code and deplores the fact that no real progress has been achieved regarding freedom of expression a underlining that further legislative reform, and most importantly, implementation steps will be required to ensure that Turkey fully guarantees freedom of expression and press freedom in line with ECHR standards;
18) The conference calls upon the Turkish government to encourage and support the growth of NGOs and civil society organisations and welcome healthy debate and constructive criticism as natural and beneficial to a vibrant democracy; to this end, the conference is appalled by the current climate of fear and intimidation faced by many in the NGO community, especially those working on human rights;
19) The Conference calls upon Turkey to fulfil its positive obligations under article 10 of the ECHR to promote a positive climate in which freedom of expression can flourish, and to protect writers, journalists, intellectuals, lawyers and many other defenders of free speech from unlawful interference by state and non-state actors;
20) The Conference welcomes the recent adoption by the Turkish Parliament of the Law on Foundations and calls upon Turkish authorities to ensure that the law is implemented in line with the ECHR and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights;
21) The Conference calls upon Turkey, following the positive step taken with the adoption of the Law on Foundations, to fulfil its commitments regarding freedom of religion by establishing, in line with the ECHR and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, a legal framework enabling all religious communities to function without undue constraints, in particular as regards their legal status, training of clergy, election of hierarchy, religious education and construction of places of worship; calls for the immediate re-opening of the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary and the public use of the ecclesiastical title of the Ecumenical Patriarch;
22) The Conference is disappointed at the limited progress made in strengthening the social dialogue mechanisms in Turkey and calls upon the Turkish government to fully implement ILO conventions, underlining the need to remove current restrictions on freedom of association, the right to strike and the right to collective bargaining;
23) The Conference underlines its view that the resolution of the armed conflict in Turkey 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 nationalism which is the root cause of the conflict and Turkey’s endemic instability;
24) This Conference therefore asserts that the Kurdish people and their representatives should be given a genuine participatory role in the accession process and in any debate over Turkey’s democratic constitutional future;
Confidence Building Measures
The Conference further asserts that more must and can be done on all sides and calls for the following confidence building measures to be adopted;
25) This conference notes that the resolution of the conflict and the constitutional recognition of Kurds in Turkey are central to regional stability;
26) In this respect, the Conference calls upon the Turkish Government to begin a public debate about the constitutional recognition of the existence of the Kurdish people within Turkey;
27) The Conference calls upon all political parties in Turkey to help foster the conditions within Turkey for a democratic platform for dialogue;
28) The Conference urges Turkey to recognize that for democracy to function, it is imperative that local municipalities across the country enjoy the full support of national government;
29) 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 or constant threat of closure, with particular reference to the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and its current democratically elected members of parliament; in accordance with Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights;
30) This Conference calls upon the Turkish Government to immediately cease the harassment and politically-motivated investigations of Kurdish politicians;
31) The Conference notes the judgements of the ECtHR in several cases, but in particular in the case of Abdullah Öcalan vs Turkey, regarding conditions of detention in Turkey. The Conference further calls on the Turkish government to implement CPT (Committee on Prevention of Torture) recommendations on conditions of detention and specifically relating to the health of Mr. Öcalan;
32) The Conference calls on the Turkish government to step up its fight against torture perpetrated outside detention centres and against the impunity of law enforcement officials, and to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), thus providing for systematic torture prevention and for independent monitoring of detention centres;
33) The Conference calls upon the Turkish government to launch a political initiative favouring a lasting settlement of the Kurdish issue, which can only be based on tangible improvements in the cultural, economic and social opportunities available to citizens of Kurdish origin;
34) The Conference calls on the Turkish government not to engage in military operations in Northern Iraq (South Kurdistan) violating Iraq’s territory; urges Turkey to respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, human rights and the rule of law, and to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided. Furthermore, the conference notes that military operations make it difficult to sustain dialogue with its neighbour, Iraq and its Kurdish Regional Government.
35) In reference to the above, the Conference notes that these are political issues and need a political response, that the military response jeopardizes any gains made in this arena and acts as a deterrent to future improvements, and calls upon Turkey to cease such military activities in Northern Iraq (South Kurdistan).
The Conference calls upon Turkey and the EU to:
36) In particular, the Conference urges Turkey and the Member States of the EU to take practical and visible steps to demonstrate their full support for the establishment of a democratic platform for dialogue between all peoples constituting the Turkish Republic; NGO’s and civil society groups specifically should be encouraged and supported to contribute to such a platform;
37) The Conference supports the undertakings by the EU that reform in the area of Turkey’s fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law must be strengthened in the course of accession negotiations and welcomes the commitment by the EU Commission to continue to monitor the reform process;
38) The Conference reiterates the view expressed in the 2004 – 2007 Conferences, that Turkey has not yet fulfilled the political elements of the Copenhagen Criteria, and reiterates that its support for the accession process is dependent upon the institutions of the EU robustly enforcing accession standards. It further underlines that there can be no further compromises on membership criteria akin to the EU decision to allow Turkey access to the negotiating table for ‘sufficiently’ fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria;
39) Recalling last year’s conference resolution number 10, the Conference calls upon Turkey to ratify the European Framework Convention on the Protection of Minorities as well as other UN Instruments concerning minorities and to respect the existing cultural and minority rights of all groups; and calls on the EU to apply pressure on the Government of Turkey as a potential member of the EU to ratify said Framework;
40) The Conference calls on the EU to recognize that torture is still an administrative practice of the state rather than an isolated practice and forms part of the systematic policy of the state in Turkey, and calls upon Turkey to put a halt to all such practices and ensure the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Conference calls on Turkey to fully cooperate with and implement CPT recommendations with regards to the conditions of detention of Abdullah Öcalan, who has been held for more than nine years as the sole inmate of the prison on the island of Imrali, and recent allegations of torture of detained persons by law enforcement officials and prison officers, as well as the situation of foreign nationals detained under aliens legislation. The Conference condemns these activities and calls for an immediate end to such actions. The Conference calls on the EU to exert pressure on Turkey to abstain from the use of torture as a tool of the state and fully cooperate with the CPT;
41) 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, 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;
42) This Conference expresses regret with regards to the Turkish government’s initiation of work on the ill-planned Ilisu Dam in August 2006, and the start of the expropriation of land by the Turkish state which threatens mass displacement and loss of livelihood of the area’s inhabitants, the majority of whom are Kurds; endangers the historically important city of Hasankeyf, in an apparent attempt to further disassociate Kurds from their rich heritage and culture; and will, according to several environmental assessment reports, further jeopardize access to water for Turkey’s neighbours and cause irreversible environmental harm;
43) The Conference calls upon the Turkish government to reassess its position and calls on EU bodies monitoring the impact of internal displacement and potential effects of this project on the already overpopulated urban centres of the Kurdish regions, as well as on member governments to put pressure on foreign capital companies to withdraw their investments in the project;
44) The Conference notes that nothing has changed with regards to Turkey’s stance on the Ilisu Dam, consultations, or resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons, and calls upon the EU to abstain from funding or supporting the project;
45) The Conference notes that all evidence suggests that the vast majority of Internally Displaced Persons are unable to return to their villages without government support and also face political difficulties. The Conference notes that the EU could play a vital role in assisting Turkey and exerting political pressure to remedy the situation of Internally Displaced Persons. The Conference calls upon the EU to make this a vital criterion to the accession of the EU, to monitor the situation with regards to Internally Displaced Persons and their conditions, and to follow up on such monitoring.
At this critical juncture all actors involved (the EU, Turkey and the Kurds) must take heed of lessons from their past, and act in accordance with international law and humanitarian norms. With this in mind, this Conference calls upon the international community to:
46) To take the lead in formally recognizing the consistent policies of discrimination directed at Kurds, and by consequence, all who live in the Kurdish regions and the resulting economic, political and social problems and make a concerted, visible and tangible effort to support all parties in putting an end to them;
47) This Conference calls upon Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq to use its good offices to reduce regional tensions.
48) The Conference recalls Turkey’s commitment to good neighbourly relations, and stresses its expectation that Turkey will refrain from any threats against neighbouring countries and resolve all outstanding disputes peacefully in accordance with the UN Charter and other relevant international conventions; Stresses the need to arrive at a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question; calls on both parties to use the current window of opportunity with a view to achieving a comprehensive settlement within the UN framework, based on the principles on which the EU is founded; in this regard, recalls its previous resolutions stating that the withdrawal of Turkish forces would facilitate the negotiation of a settlement;
49) The Conference calls on the Turkish government to end the economic blockade and to re-open its border with Armenia; calls once again on Turkish and the Armenian governments to start a process of reconciliation, in respect of the present and the past, allowing for a frank and open discussion of past events; calls on the Commission to facilitate this reconciliation process.
50) This Conference calls upon its directors, advisors, and committees, to engage and campaign on both a political and civic level across Europe in support of Turkey’s accession bid. The Conference calls upon EU bodies and EU member states to support Turkey in its bid to join the European Union, and calls upon Turkey to make a firm commitment to further progress in the areas set out in the above resolutions. The time for change has arrived and opportunities for advancement must not be lost at this crucial juncture.
51) The Conference is alarmed by the decision of the Turkish courts to sentence Leyla Zana, winner of the European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and welcomes the unanimous decision made by the Presidents of all groups of the European Parliament to closely monitor the case and raise the issue with Commissioner Rehn. (estella24[email protected], February, 17, 2009)