Report criticises Turkey’s human rights record – but how will government react?

“The UK has distinguished itself as a friend in the eyes of the Turkish government, and both sides are seeking to cement a strategic relationship. But, as the UK does so, it must not be seen as disregarding—or even excusing—allegations of serious human rights violations and the erosion of democracy in Turkey. It is vital that the UK’s criticism both privately and publicly is not withheld when grounds for criticism exist.”

Thus runs an extract from the recent UK parliament’s foreign affairs committee report ‘The UK’s relations with Turkey’ published at the end of March following eight months of review and consideration of evidence submitted by interested parties including the NUJ and the TUC.

The report articulates the classic dilemma of human rights considerations versus business, trade and strategic and ‘security’ interests. And the government’s record to date on this is not good (witness the current debate about UK relations with Saudi Arabia). Everything comes with a price tag and how often have we been told by governments down the ages that trade buys you influence!  But at least the report recognises that the post 15 July purges undertaken by the Erdogan regime and in the run up to the constitutional referendum on 16 April, are serious enough to recommend that Turkey is listed as a Human Rights Priority country by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. (Will this bring about a change of behaviour by Erdogan?)

The report has three chapters on the status of human rights in Turkey (4, 5 and 6) which ..”examines significant concerns about the erosion of….human rights and democracy in Turkey.” The National Union of Journalists, which submitted written evidence to the committee, is extensively quoted on pages 58/60 in the section dealing with Freedom of Expression. It criticises the government’s post coup purges and subsequent Emergency powers as going “far beyond the circumstances of the coup…” and the number of people who have been punished as “extraordinary and their means of redress are inadequate.” The wide ranging report also criticises the attacks on the Kurdish communities, continuing detention of opposition MPs and goes into considerable detail about the alleged role of the Gulenist movement and individuals in the coup. It criticises the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for being broadly willing to take the Turkish government’s account (of Gulenist involvement in the coup) “at face value and seemed unable to offer an independent analysis.” (The Committee took evidence from them including at an oral hearing.)

Yet despite all this, the committee welcomed the £100 million arms deal and encouraged the expansion of bilateral trade between the two countries. And the report was critically received by SPOT (Solidarity with the People of Turkey) who called on the government to at least halt all arms deals with the Turkish state.

With the Commons into its Easter recess it’s not known when, or even if, the report will be debated, so now is the time to contact your MP calling on them to demand a parliamentary debate on the report.

You can read the report at: https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmfaff/615/615.pdf?wpisrc=nl_todayworld&wpmm=1

The Gulenist response to the report dated 25 March may be found at: http://www.dialoguesociety.org/press-release/1125-guelenist-response-to-the-foreign-affairs-committees-report-on-turkey-and-uk-relations.html#.WOPNwmco_cc

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