The 6th International 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 investigate what further efforts must be made to improve human rights and the rule of law in Turkey.
As regards accession, the EUTCC notes the progress cited in the European Commission Progress Report on Turkey including some substantive internal reforms within Turkey. 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 ‘Turkey and the Kurdish Conflict: Political Dialogue & Peace-building’ in response to the Government’s launch of its Kurdish Initiative. The EUTCC notes the government’s Initiative and believes that dialogue is the only way forward to peace. It notes, however, with concern the widespread persecution of non-violent democratic political parties and urges the government of Turkey to adopt an all-inclusive approach to long-term democratic parliamentary reform and to calls upon it to have regard to the declarations cited herein.
There can no military solution to a political problem, therefore all side must accept and express commitment to resolution through peaceful dialogue acknowledging that a military solution will not bring lasting peace. Executive Summary of the 6th International Conference on the EU Turkey and the Kurds
The Conference highlights the following points from the 2010 Resolutions:
• The Conference calls for the immediate end to all military operations by Turkey within Kurdistan, Iraq. These military operations are undermining the Kurdish Regional Government and threatening regional stability; The Conference calls on Turkey to also stop all military operations within its borders;
• The Conference underlines its view that the resolution of the armed conflict between the Turkish State and the PKK can only come through political dialogue with representatives of the Kurdish people and the Turkish government;
• The government of Turkey should ensure that there is political space for dialogue between all peoples constituting the Turkish Republic on concrete, substantive issues such as constitutional reform, and the EU should assist; civil society groups specifically should be encouraged and supported to contribute to such a platform;
• The Conference urges Turkey to immediately stop using anti-terror legislation to criminalise and detain the legitimate representatives of the Kurdish people. We therefore call on the Turkish authorities to investigate and monitor prosecution of these cases and of all human rights defenders according to domestic and international law and for these cases to be dealt with expeditiously;
• The Conference notes the Turkish Government’s Kurdish Initiative but also notes that it falls short because the government has failed to fully and genuinely consult with elected representatives of the Kurds and in the wider Turkish and Kurdish community;
• All parties to commit to a peaceful Newroz where Kurds are permitted to freely celebrate, associate and express themselves without fear or favour;
• The EU and international community should seriously facilitate the points made above.
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 notes that neither the EU nor Turkey has publicly recognized the firm link between working towards a peaceful solution to the long-standing Kurdish issue and the realization of democracy, stability, and human rights in Turkey.
Noting the EU Commission’s 2009 Turkey Progress Report, specific areas of concern include freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, trade union rights, civilian oversight of the military and women’s rights and gender equality. The report highlights that much more also needs to be done regarding impunity for those involved in torture and ill-treatment and points to the implementation of several judgments delivered by the European Court for which legislative amendments have been outstanding for several years.
Recalling the resolutions from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd 4th and 5th International Conferences on EU, Turkey and the Kurds, the Conference continues to give its qualified support to Turkey’s bid for EU accession.
The 6th 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. In its turn, 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 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;
3) The Conference joins with the Commission in its concern that efforts to implement the Government’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy with regard to torture and ill-treatment have been limited and the number of allegations have increased. Turkey must strengthen and apply the legal framework that currently exists to safeguard against torture and ill-treatment, as well as bringing perpetrators to justice and ending the impunity of law enforcement officials. Turkey must also immediately ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in order to being it in 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;
4) With reference to the judgements of the ECtHR in several cases, including the case of 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 and specifically relating to the health of Mr. Öcalan;
5) 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. The Conference calls on the EU to ensure that Turkey remove restrictions on freedom of expression from their legal framework entirely;
6) The Conference asks the EU to monitor closely 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;
7) Noting the recent report submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on violations of Media freedom, the Conference urges Turkey to abolish Article 301 of the Penal Code, and also to ensure that freedom of expression and press freedom is in line with ECHR standards and to fulfil its positive obligations under article 10 of the ECHR to promote a positive climate in which freedom of expression can flourish;
8) 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;
9) The Conference notes with regret the recent escalation in violence during demonstrations, and urges restraint of both the demonstrators and the Turkish security forces;
10) EU member states must end the criminalisation of peaceful dissent of Turkey echoed by Kurdish organizations situated in Europe and to review its proscription of certain Kurdish organizations;
11) The Conference urges 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. Turkey must also repeal other legislation that facilitates the harassment of human rights defenders and the obstruction of their work, including relevant provisions of the Law on Associations, the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations and the Civil Code.
12) The Conference notes that while there has been some implementation of the Law on Foundations, Turkey has still failed to establish 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.
13) The Conference reiterates the urgent need for the Turkish government to fully implement International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, and underlines the need to remove current restrictions on freedom of association, the right to strike and the right to collective bargaining;
14) The Conference continues to support the stance of 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;
15) The Conference notes that progress has been made in developing the 10-part Judicial Reform Strategy which the Commission notes is ‘comprehensive and covers issues related to the independence, impartiality, efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary, enhancement of its professionalism, the management system and measures to enhance confidence in the judiciary, to facilitate access to justice and improve the penitentiary system.’ The Conference notes with concern that Turkey continues to have far more judgements against it handed down by the European Court of Human Rights handed for violations of the ECHR than against any other country, including against Russia.
16) The Conference calls on the EU member states to strongly and publicly support all EU requirements concerning democratic and legal reform within Turkey; in particular the EU must unambiguously condemn the recent closure of the DTP and 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.
17) This Conference calls on Turkey to remove the10 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;
18) Ensure that the legislation passed by the Turkish Parliament in 2009 that provides for military personnel to be tried by civilian courts during peacetime for crimes that would be subject to Heavy Penal Court jurisdiction and which removed the power of military courts to try civilians in peacetime, is enacted. The new legislation, which brings Turkey in line with EU practices, is currently pending at the Constitutional Court under appeal to be annulled;
19) The Conference urges the Turkish judiciary to undertake and complete full and transparent investigations in cases of politically or religiously motivated violence, and to bring those responsible to justice.
20) The Conference welcomes the indictment in March 2009 of 56 suspects, including 3 retired generals and a former commander of the Gendarmarie and in July 2009 of a further 5 suspects. The judiciary must ensure a fair and thorough trial of these suspects and that they are not protected by impunity;
21) Turkey must make further efforts within Turkish state apparatus, including but not limited to the police and the military, to fulfil its obligations under the ECHR and international humanitarian law as well as to its own reforms introduced in the past 2 years as part of its commitment to the accession process. The Conference notes the frequent use of disproportionate force against peaceful protestors by the Turkish police and the continuation of military operations in the south east of Turkey, which shows a worrying disregard for the protection and safety of its own citizens;
22) 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;
23) This Conference 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;
24) 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 minority rights of all groups. 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;
25) 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;
26) 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
27) Use their good offices to urge Turkey to address the dire situation of women in Turkey who are at high risk of violence both domestic 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 2009 Progress Report’s statement that gender equality remains a major challenge in Turkey and calls on the state to establish the required gender equality body to comply with the acquis. The conference further calls on Turkey to remedy the widespread lack of implementation and enforcement of previous reforms aimed at protecting women from discrimination and violence.
28) The Conference regrets that no further progress has been made to develop a National Action Plan in consultation and co-operation with Kurdish women to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which 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. The international community must support Turkey in the development and implementation of this plan.
29) This 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 is in place, and calls upon the EU and international community to abstain from funding or supporting the project;
30) The Conference notes that no further provision has been made in Turkey for the thousands 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 Internally Displaced Persons and their conditions, and to follow up on such monitoring.
31) The Conference deplores the application of new anti-terror legislation that has been used to criminalise children. It is also highly concerned about the recent statistics released by the Turkish government which state that 2,700 children were detained in 2009 and remain in detention and over 700 were detained under the Anti-Terror Act. The lack of mother tongue education; discrimination in the justice system, plus the wide scale internal displacement and isolation of Kurds in Turkey are all contributory factors undermining the protection of Kurdish children in Turkey, and the EU and international community must put pressure on Turkey to stop the detention and ill-treatment of children;
32) The conference The Turkish state must try all children up to the age of 18 in specialist juvenile courts with procedures adapted specifically to the needs of the child including in cases where the individuals in question are charged under the Anti-Terror Law;
33) The Conference underlines its view that the resolution of the armed conflict between Turkey and the PKK 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;
34) This Conference therefore asserts that the Kurdish people and their representatives should have the opportunity for genuine participation in the accession process and in any debate over Turkey’s democratic constitutional future;
35) 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;
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:
36) The Conference calls on the Turkish government to cease all military operations in northern Iraq (south Kurdistan) violating Iraq’s territory 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;
37) 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;
38) The Conference notes that the Turkish Government commencing a public debate about the Kurdish Initiative and the needs for cultural and constitutional reform. The Conference urges the Turkish government to ensure that Kurds are given full cultural and political rights in accordance with its obligations under the Council of Europe and EU accession criteria;
39) The Conference calls upon all political parties in Turkey to help foster the conditions within Turkey for a democratic platform for dialogue;
40) The Conference urges all parties to commit to a peaceful Newroz where Kurds are permitted to freely celebrate, associate and express themselves without fear or favour;
41) The Conference calls upon the Turkish government to re-launch a political initiative that favours a lasting settlement to the Kurdish issue, which can only be achieved through social, economic and cultural opportunities being available to citizens of Kurdish origin;
42) 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; It further calls upon the Turkish Government to immediately cease the harassment and politically-motivated investigations of Kurdish politicians;
43) 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.
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.
([email protected], 9 February 2010)