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Turkey: Human rights effort lauded but more needed

UN expert lauds Turkey’s human rights effort but urges respect for all groups

While hailing Turkey’s rights efforts and initiatives by noting that “significant progress” has been made, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism called today for more to be done to investigate allegations of torture, and to respect the linguistic and cultural rights of all groups living in the country, including the Kurds.

Following his visit to Turkey from 16 to 23 February, a UN statement said that Martin Scheinin, who is an independent expert serving in his individual capacity, has now issued a preliminary report, putting forward a series of recommendations including the need to narrow the definition of terrorism, so as to make “the fight against such crimes more targeted and effective.”

The Special Rapporteur noted “with great satisfaction that the many efforts undertaken by the Government in the area of human rights, such as intensified human rights training, a zero-tolerance policy vis-à-vis torture and a considerable improvement in physical conditions of places of detention have led to significant progress, which is widely recognized by the civil society.”

At the same time he said he has “not found convincing evidence that independent and impartial mechanisms to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of terrorism suspects are in place.” He also voiced regret that “no functioning monitoring system for places of detention by independent human rights institutions or non-governmental organizations exists in Turkey.”

Mr. Scheinin reminded the Government that while a law on compensating victims of terrorism was a “very laudable step in the right direction” it nevertheless falls short of full restitution and rehabilitation.

He also stressed that respecting economic, social and cultural rights helps to eliminate the risk that individuals make the “morally inexcusable decision to resort to acts of terrorism.”

He emphasized that for all inhabitants of Turkey to fully enjoy their human rights without discrimination, “persons belonging to different cultural and linguistic groups, including the Kurdish population, should enjoy protection of their cultural and linguistic rights.”

Mr. Scheinin accepted the appointment as first Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism on 8 August 2005. He previously served eight years as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee. He is Professor of Constitutional Law and International Law and Director of the Human Rights Institute at Abo Akademi University in Finland.

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