British MPs ask gov’t to take more active stance on rights violations in Turkey

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Fifty-three lawmakers in the British Parliament have in a letter expressed concern about widespread human rights violations in Turkey and called on the UK government to adopt a more active stance on these violations in its relationship with Turkey.

The lawmakers sent their letter, which was opened to signature in the British Parliament by Conservative Party politician Crispin Blunt and Labor Party politician Hilary Benn, to British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on May 11.

In their letter the lawmakers said the UK’s relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally, is important for the country, and despite enormous challenges Turkey had in recent decades been making great strides towards broad conformity with the laws, values and attitude to human rights of its European partners.

“However, over the last decade, this progress has gone into sharp reverse under President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s leadership and we are writing to ask the Government to take a more active stance in seeking to prevent human rights violations in Turkey,” the British lawmakers said, adding that the imprisonment of journalists, the suppression of democratic political opposition and the recent wave of intimidation of human rights defenders needed to be addressed, not the least in Turkey’s own interests, by showing that there is a cost for doing the wrong thing.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens following a failed coup in 2016, are accused of silencing dissent in the country, ending the rule of law and establishing one-man rule.

The British lawmakers specifically mentioned the removal of the parliamentary immunity and imprisonment of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (AKP), based on a jail sentence given to him due to a Twitter post, and the detention of Özturk Türkdoğan, co-chair of the Human Rights Association (IHD), on charges of being part of an illegal group, as part of a growing pattern which “increasingly calls into question whether Turkey actually shares our democratic values and attachment to the rule of law.”

“As Parliamentarians, all of us should be worried by the imprisonment of MPs, not least those who have been working for the human rights of all parts of Turkish society. The ideal of a future in which Turks and the Kurds, the religious and the secular and the rich and the poor could work together to respect the rights of others and minorities is now in danger of being destroyed by the growing oppressive domestic policies of the Turkish government. The very institution of democracy is under grave threat,” said the lawmakers.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty to combat domestic violence, and the imprisonment or prosecution of hundreds of Kurds on terrorism charges were cited as yet more worrying signs from Turkey in addition to reports about a rise in allegations of torture, ill-treatment and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment in police and military custody.

“Turkey should be an indispensable ally of our country, and that is why the UK owes the people of Turkey a duty to speak up openly for a return to the path of democracy and respect for human rights and pluralism,” said the lawmakers.

“We request that you make an early statement to Parliament, making clear to the Turkish government that the United Kingdom’s public friendship cannot be unconditional and that we will always stand up for human rights. The UK’s many friends in Turkey would welcome and draw strength from such a statement of Britain’s position as they work to restore a properly open society,” they added.

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