Despite thousands of imprisonments: Erdogan presents plan for human rights

Despite thousands of imprisonments
Erdogan presents plan for human rights

Turkish President Erdogan wants to strengthen the judiciary and freedom of expression – and thus ensure more rule of law. At the same time, opposition politicians and journalists are in jail. Critics see nothing more than a smoke candle in the plans.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has presented a so-called action plan for human rights. The eleven-point plan provides for strengthening the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Turkey, Erdogan said in a TV address. A committee would monitor the conditions in prisons and an annual human rights report would be prepared. The plan therefore also includes respect for the presumption of innocence in court and a shortening of pre-trial detention through faster court proceedings.

“Nobody should be deprived of their freedom because of their opinion,” said the Turkish head of state, who has taken legal action against thousands of people over the past few years for allegedly insulting the president in online networks. The action plan is an important basis for a new constitution, which should be adopted by the centenary of the Turkish republic in 2023, added the president. Erdogan remained vague in his announcement, however.

“Improving freedom of expression, organization and religion is the goal we have worked hardest on to date,” he told ministers and other government officials. The laws and their implementation were examined and the necessary measures were to be taken, Erdogan continued. His country also wants to accelerate efforts on the issue of visa liberalization with the EU.

The announcements were made a few weeks before an EU summit in Brussels, at which the heads of state and government want to draw up a roadmap for future relations with Turkey. Relations between Ankara and Western countries had deteriorated since 2016, which is due in particular to Erdogan’s tough dealings with political opponents, critical media and civil society.

Erdogan’s announcements “sound like a confession”

The President’s latest announcements met with skepticism among the Turkish opposition. Erdogan has listed exactly the topics “on which Turkey has stepped backwards because of its AKP. It sounded like a confession,” wrote the CHP politician Onursal Adig├╝zel on Twitter. Well-known media and human rights lawyer Veysel Ok tweeted that when it comes to human rights, the best place to start is to release “political prisoners” such as the pro-Kurdish opposition politician Selahattin Demirtas, the author Ahmet Altan and the cultural promoter Osman Kavala.

Kavala has been in custody since November 2017, Demirtas has been in prison since November 2016. In both cases, Turkey failed to implement rulings by the European Court of Human Rights on release. As a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is actually bound by ECHR rulings. Most recently, the president’s pressure on the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP had also increased significantly. Erdogan repeatedly accuses party members of making common cause with terrorists.

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