UPDATE, JULY 2017: Our letter below received the following response from the office of President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission:
“We share your concern about the rights of journalists in Turkey and continue to encourage Turkey to respect its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and as a candidate country of the European Union. The European Union continues to closely monitor the human rights situation in Turkey and the measures taken by the Turkish government since the coup attempt in July 2016. In our continuous dialogue with the Turkish authorities, we stress the centrality of Turkey complying with its obligations in the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have repeatedly encouraged Turkey to address the concerns of the Council of Europe and to ensure the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. As the European Commission noted in its 2016 Report on Turkey, legislation and practice in the area of freedom of expression do not comply with European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) case-law. The selective and arbitrary application of the law has a negative impact on freedom of expression in Turkey.”
As European leaders prepare to meet Turkey’s President Erdoğan at the NATO summit this week, CRNI is just one among many human rights orgs urging the Presidents of the European Commission and Council of Europe to ensure that protection of human rights and detention of journalists in Turkey remain a central point of discussion.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THEIR EXCELLENCIES
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOĞAN, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL
ON THE OCCASION OF THEIR MEETING AT THE 28th NATO SUMMIT, BRUSSELS, MAY 25th 2017
Turkey has been a member of the Council of Europe for almost sixty years and is party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a meeting with the European Committee on Foreign Affairs held in Strasbourg on May 15th Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council made the following statement with reference to journalists arrested in Turkey on charges pertaining to support for terrorist organisations:
“… there is case law [in the European Court of Human Rights]… that one cannot have a journalist in pre-trial detention for more than four months.”
Staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper including our colleague the acclaimed and internationally respected cartoonist Musa Kart were formally arrested on November 5th 2016. They were finally indicted on April 4th 2017 – a gap of five months.
Last week they spent their two hundredth consecutive day in custody. When the first hearing of their trial takes place, scheduled for July 24th, they will be approaching the end of their ninth month. And their circumstances are far from unique; Amnesty International’s figures indicate that a third of the world’s imprisoned journalists are in Turkey.
By any measure of jurisprudence the protracted detention of these journalists constitute a violation of rights accorded to those awaiting trial.
Furthermore we reject the charges levelled against Kart and his colleagues, who have done nothing more than pursue careers in journalism.
We urge President Tusk and his delegation to press President Erdoğan on conditions for journalists and media workers in Turkey and remind him that, in the word of Sec.Gen. Jagland:
“… [the ECHR] has communicated to the journalists that their[s] are cases of priority.”
Finally we call upon President Erdoğan to consider his own words last year following the attempted coup against his government:
“I feel that if we do not make use of this opportunity correctly, then it will give the people the right to hold us by the throat.”
Time for Turkey to behave “correctly” i.e. like the robust, mature, lawful democracy and valued world player her friends in Europe know her to be.
Joel Pett, President, CRNI