Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2002
40. Dr Robins and Mr Park, would you like to
respond to the original question?
(Dr Robins) I think there are human rights infringements
which are politically related and there are human rights infringements
that are related very much, as Bill Hale says, to the treatment
of prisoners in police stations where torture is used still very
much as an everyday tool to extract confessions as part of police
investigations, which are the two really big areas and the areas
that are likely to be the most problematic in terms of bringing
about reform, in the first case because of political opposition
to concessions in the direction of minority rights or in the direction
of a more inclusive political system. In the latter case, because
of those inbuilt ideas that individuals are there to serve the
state rather than the state being there to serve the individuals,
this is ingrained, going back to Ottoman times. It does not mean
it cannot change but it is likely to take longer to change rather
than change more quickly. I suppose I would tend to say that there
could be the beginnings of some of these changes; indeed there
have already been changes over the last two or three years, but
it could take up to five years to get real movement on some of
these political areas and I think it will take a generation for
people to really assimilate new habits based on best practice.
A generation is 20 years but that does not necessarily mean that
one has to wait for everybody to assimilate those before we think
about closer relations. Closer relations in part would be about
accelerating and incentivising people inside Turkey to scrutinise
their practices to make sure that these good practices are speeded
(Dr Hale) Can I just add something on the torture
question? I suspect that one of the reasons why this is such a
routine practice in Turkish police stations is that the Turkish
police are not very good at gathering the normal forensic evidence,
witness evidence, etc, which one would need in order to convict
somebody of a crime. In these circumstances they tend to resort
to brutal methods in order to get confessions. For instance, one
area which perhaps effort could be directed towards on our part
or on the part of other European countries would simply be to
improve the efficiency of the police at doing normal police detective
work when investigating crimes.
(Mr Park) I agree with everything that has been said,
not least about the culture in Turkey. The one thing that I would
want to emphasise is that the human rights abuses that we have
seen are not exclusively but are, if you like, disproportionately
associated with the situation in the south east of the country.
There have been major transgressions, some of them at the formal
level, in the sense of laws and formal procedures, and some of
them at the informal level as we have heard. This might not be
a satisfactory answer but for every European Union country that
faces this problem the rules do tend to shift a bit, for example,
in the British case the H-block system, the silencing of Sinn
Fein broadcasting, the hints of dirty war in the Basque situation.
41. What is your timescale?
(Mr Park) Because the human rights abuses are disproportionately
associated with the situation in the south east of Turkey I think
a lot depends on the situation in south east Turkey and that a
lot of the transgressions that take place in Turkey are to do
with these extraordinary circumstances which tend to prompt transgressions
in mainstream European societies as well.
42. To really make the sort of progress on what
is going to be a formidable degree of change, from what you have
all three said in different ways, you have to have very determined
political leadership and political drive at the top. Do you judge
that at the top of the Turkish political system the will is really
there to drive through what in many quarters domestically be unpalatable
reforms on the grounds that Turkey's EU accession is of such a
degree of importance that change must be made and must be made
relatively quickly? Is that political will there or not?
(Mr Park) The will is there to change the rules and
the constitution, at least in large part in the political system.
There is a problem with the action part of it. If you look at
Ecevit's party or Motherland Party, I think the will is there.
The issue is how the state sets about implementing those changes.
Bill alluded to the way the police operate and the reasons why
they operate that way and the lack of agencies that monitor the
way the police operate. You could also look at the lawyers trained
under a certain sort of system, who are inclined to interpret
the law in a hard rather than a soft way. The will to change the
rules and regulations is in evidence by the current reform programme
but the capacity of the system to follow that is much more problematic
and is to do with the practices and resourcing of state institutions.
43. Could we have a comment on the political
(Dr Hale) I think the will is there on the large part
of the political leadership. The problem is that Turkey has, and
is likely to have for a long time, coalition governments. The
party system is highly fragmented. In addition to that at present
the currently ruling parties are riding extremely low in the public
opinion polls. In fact, according to most public opinion polls
in Turkey the three ruling parties would not even overcome the
ten per cent threshold which is necessary under the present electoral
law to win any seats in the National Assembly if there was an
election immediately. There are possibly new political leaders
waiting in the wings. Again, according to the public opinion polls,
Mr Erdogan's party, the Justice and Development Party, is the
most popular of the existing parties. This would represent a new
leadership. There is also speculation about the emergence of a
new and more effective alignment on the centre left. There is
speculation about the likelihood that Mr Ecevit would have to
retire at around the time or shortly before the time of the next
general election which would be due in 2004 at the latest (this
is purely speculation) so there is a good deal of possibility
of change and new political figures emerging. Turkish voters are
extremely volatile. In fact, around 20 per cent of the voters
vote for a different party from the one they voted for in the
previous general election. This excludes of course changes brought
about by older people dying and younger people coming on to the
electoral roll for the first time, which is another important
factor. I think it is quite likely that Turkey will have new political
leaders by about 2004 when the next elections are due and I think
that most of those political leaders will be more strongly committed
to the kinds of changes that we have been discussing than some
of the present ones are, but I would not like to be certain about
that, and, of course, given a system of proportional representation,
bargains and compromises always have to be made in order to stitch
a government together.
44. Dr Robins, do you think the political will
(Dr Robins) I agree with pretty much everything that
has been said before. I think the window of opportunity for change
usually comes in the first couple of years after a general election
when a ruling party or coalition will have a popular mandate with
obviously some time before the next election comes in and the
usual run of election economics and so on which one tends to see
in the Turkish case. I think for any reform of a really substantive
and imaginative nature I would be looking at something like 2003
to 2005, assuming that the current parliament does not quite go
to its full term. That would be the time that I would be looking
to for some hope for some real change.
Mr Pope: I find this really depressing. All
the evidence that we have heard from you today and the other evidence
that we have heard and in the witness submissions is really depressing.
If this was solely the political repression of the PKK you could
condemn that, but you could also comprehend why that was taking
place. What seems to be the case, what we have heard, is that
this is almost a cultural problem across the whole of Turkey.
I was looking at something that Amnesty International said. They
said that torture was systematic and almost anybody could be tortured.
Human Rights Watch said that despite constitutional changes which
have yet to be put in legislation on the ground nothing has improved.
I read in one of the papers that Mr Erdogan, the leader of the
Justice and Development Party, was banned from standing for parliament.
This is a guy who had the potential to be a future prime minister.
Apart from saying, "Oh, gosh, it looks really hopeless",
what would be the most useful thing that we in the West can do?
I must say, if I were the Turkish Government I would not fancy
being lectured by some lefty like me. That would not make me think,
"Oh, gosh". A round robin to The Times would
not pull me up short. What can we do to effect some material change,
to effect that kind of cultural change in Turkey? My other question
is this. All these other issues are about the political will.
In truth can the political will make a difference? If what is
happening in a police station in a village in Turkey is routine
torture, what difference can the political class make to stop
that happening, if any?
45. Following almost exactly on a point that
Greg made, to what extent is our ambiguity and our attitude towards
Turkeythat we like them as soldiers, that we are happy
to have them in NATO, that we were happy for them to send the
largest contingency to North Korea 50 years ago and therefore
our messages are quite ambiguousmean that we are playing
a role in that because we are not clear where we really want Turkey
(Mr Park) Philip made an observation before, which
I certainly agree with and most people who look at Turkey would
agree with, and this is that the relationship between state and
individual is pretty much the other way round in Turkey from what
we would expect in Europe. That is a very broad statement. You
can then have a discussion about timescales and this sort of thing,
which is speculative, but one senses this in almost every area
of Turkish life that one looks at. This is an expectation not
only on the part of the state but also on the part of the people,
so it does colour public attitudes to things like human rights
or treatment of the Kurds or whatever. I have no very easy answer
to your pessimism except that I think there are reasons other
than that we like them as soldiers to engage with Turkey. It is
a country that aspires in a quite profound way (and whether it
knows how to do it is another matter) to be different, and its
thrust is to be European. I think that patient engagement that
seeks to encourage the positive and does not make too much of
the negative to turn them off, that is, a constructive engagement,
an encouraging engagement, is I suppose the best that I can offer.
In a sense, putting Turkey in the EU waiting room and saying it
can happen one day might be all we can achieve right now, and
in doing that that gives us the scope, the mechanisms, the resources,
to construct and re-engage. What do we do about it? Maybe that
is what we do about it. Where might all this lead? It is at least
as possible to be pessimistic as optimistic, I have to say.
46. Gentlemen, we have kept you in the field
for a long time. We cannot end without touching on the Cyprus
problem and its relationship to the prospects for European Union
entry. The Turks argue that with the accession of Cyprus there
would be a double Greek veto, possibly even preventing them from
arriving at the starting line of being acceptable under the Copenhagen
criteria. Can you say a little about your judgement on the linkage
between the problem of Cyprus and the EU entry?
(Dr Hale) Maybe the Turks are right about suspecting
that this will lead to a double veto. The Turkish Government has
threatened, for example, at various times that it could take various
actions if Cyprus were admitted to the European Union in advance
of an internal settlement, including, for instance, annexing the
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I do not think this would
be likely if the Turkish Government was also getting a fairly
strong signal from the European Union that it would (all other
things being equal) have a good chance of starting accession negotiations.
I believe that that is a primary reason why the Turkish Government
has been strongly supporting the recent re-starting of inter-comminal
negotiations between Mr Denktash and President Clerides. So far
very little has been said about how these talks have been proceeding
and they are still obviously at an early stage, but there is,
I think, generally a fairly optimistic atmosphere in that regard
which I am glad to see. There is also the beginnings of a more
effective dialogue between Turkey and Greece over bilateral issues
regarding the Aegean. If these are successful then hopefully we
will have a situation in which it is possible to admit the Republic
of Cyprus into the European Union with the agreement of the Turkish
Cypriots as well as the Greek Cypriots. That would be an enormous
advantage, a tremendously important step forward. One might get
a situation where accession negotiations with the Republic of
Cyprus are completed before an internal settlement has been completed.
In that circumstance it would I think be important to be patient
and to perhaps try to tie the actual accession process to the
achievement of an internal settlement rather than jump ahead and
complete the accession of Cyprus in advance of an internal settlement.
I think myself that the admission of the Republic of Cyprus to
the European Union in advance of an internal settlement would
be an extremely serious mistake, not just because of the Turkish
reactions but also because it is very hard to see how the Government
of Cyprus could fulfil its obligations under the acquis communitaire
if it did not incorporate the north. It has been suggested to
me on various occasions that formulas could be worked out for
avoiding that but I have never seen any detailed or effective
assessment of that. It is something that I suggest you might like
to ask representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
if they are giving evidence.
(Mr Park) I agree with a great deal of what Bill has
said. My one remark, to put it in context, is that my sympathies
have been much more with the Turkish side of the argument on Cyprus.
What I want to say, however, slightly contradicts that, it might
appear, because I am interested in the terms of any agreement
on Cyprus and how this might play with the European Union. Essentially
what the Turkish side wants is fairly high degrees of limitation
or restriction on interaction between the two parts of Cyprusmovement
of people, movement of capital. For reasons I understandthere
are a lot more Greeks in Cyprus.
47. And they are a lot richer.
(Mr Park) And they are a lot richer than the Turks.
The problem in that is that the European Union does not permit
that between sovereign states in any case, so I am not sure how
the European Union could incorporate the whole of Cyprus without
it being something like a normally integrated sovereign state
without barriers, because precisely the point of the European
Union is to remove those barriers even between the fully fledged
sovereign entities. I think therefore that the Turkish negotiating
position has its problems.
(Dr Robins) I think the really big mistake has been
the inability of some senior Turkish diplomats to realise that
the European Union was serious about admitting Cyprus and not
to address the issue earlier. For a variety of different reasonsdenial,
particular interests in Cyprus, Denktash's ability to appeal over
the heads of Turkish politicians direct to public opinionthe
Turks did allow Denktash to get away for a long time with not
having any serious negotiations. What has happened over the last
few weeks is that the Turkish side has woken up to the fact that
if they do not do something about it there is going to be the
accession of Cyprus short of a political solution and that is
going to call their bluff on what they are going to do, whether
it is incorporating the north of Cyprus or whatever, and a realisation
that that will have a massively negative impact on their relationship
with the European Union and as a result they have told Denktash
that he has to get back to talks and to start taking seriously
a negotiating process which would very much take into account
the real and valid security interests that Turkish Cypriots have
on the island of Cyprus. The one good thing that one takes from
this is that the Turks, whatever they might say, no matter how
much they complain and so on, do value the relationship that they
have with the European Union and do not want to be in a situation
where they are into a dynamic that they cannot affect and they
end up taking steps which damage that relationship. The other
thing which is an issue for some cautious optimism apropos of
the last question is the relationship with Greece which has really
improved dramatically over the last two and a half years. It is
still a concern of mine that the good atmospherics have not been
turned into real and substantive progress on some of these difficult
issues related to the Aegean. After all, if the two foreign ministers
hug one another that is only news for so long. They have to move
on, they have to bank the political gains of those good atmospherics;
otherwise something will happenit could be Cyprus, it could
be something elsethat will lead to a bilateral deterioration
and that will be bad for all of us because one of the serious
pressure points of deteriorating or poor relations between Turkey
and the European Union is obviously the eastern Mediterranean
and Greece and the Aegean.
48. What is your view of how powerful a force
the Turkish diaspora is that lives in mainland Europe and their
opinion back home in the political opinion-forming process? Is
that a way to bring about change, that their opinion changes?
(Dr Hale) It is very difficult because under the present
arrangements Turkish citizens resident abroad do not have votes
in Turkish elections unless they happen to visit the country at
the time of the elections, in which case they vote at the border
crossing point or the airport. Without that it is hard to see
how what you are suggesting could be brought about. One other
point worth mentioning is that there are also organisations among
Turkish citizens living abroad which are highly hostile to the
Turkish Government. Some of them may be supporters of the PKK
but also supporters of extremist militant Islamist organisations,
which in some cases the German Government has recently started
taking steps against, but this is another problem.
Chairman: Gentlemen, you have been extremely
helpful in what someone called earlier opinion shaping. Many thanks.