Progress on Kurdish issue uneven, says EU draft report

October 04, 2011, Tuesday/ 18:05:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The EU’s draft progress report on Turkey voices concerns about judicial procedures in Turkey’s handling of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) case, in connection with which about 2,000 politicians, locally elected representatives and activists in the Kurdish-dominated Southeast have been detained in the last three years.

The standstill that emerged during the trials was linked to the court’s refusal to hear the defenses of a total of 152 defendants in Kurdish. Regarding failures in the handling of the KCK case, the report noted that Turkey needs to bring its criminal justice system “into line with international standards” and amend its anti-terrorism legislation. The report commented that terrorism-related articles of Turkish legislation are used extensively against human rights activists and that the broad definition of terrorism under Turkish law remains “a cause for serious concern.” But it also recognized that the recent increase in terrorist activity on the part of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is “changing the entire political climate in Turkey adversely.”

The report regards the detention of elected representatives as “a challenge to local government,” which also hampers dialogue on the Kurdish issue. It repeatedly called on Turkey to engineer its new constitution in a way that will address long-standing issues in the country, mainly the Kurdish issue, and ensure the broadest possible consultation in the drafting process.

The Kurdish issue also came up in the report under the heading of freedom of expression. The report states that the media and public continue to debate “openly and freely a wide range of topics perceived as sensitive,” including the Kurdish problem, and that opposing views are also expressed regularly. However, the large number of cases filed against intellectuals writing on the Kurdish issue and pressure placed on newspapers reporting on the matter are recognized as concerns in the report. Although the report acknowledges that the Kurdish language is being used more openly in the country and that restrictions against its use are being eliminated, there are still laws within the Constitution and the laws governing political parties that restrict the use of languages other than Turkish.

The report welcomed Turkish authorities’ judicial initiatives to form a human rights investigation committee to look into the cases of missing persons and extrajudicial killings in the Southeast since the 1990s, a bloodstained decade marred by allegations of torture, killing and abuse of Kurdish people by individuals within the Turkish security forces. While recognizing the democratic “opening” of 2009 as a move toward addressing the Kurdish issue, the report concluded that the opening has not been fully followed through with.

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