3 Turkey's domestic political development
and human rights
50. Turkey's democratic and human rights practices
matter for the UK Government's ambitions for the UK-Turkey relationship.
We therefore decided to devote a chapter of our Report to their
consideration. Supporting further improvements in Turkey's democratic
and human rights standards is among the aims of FCO policy.
Given the Government's declared support for human rights as a
central element in its foreign policy,
it would face a reputational risk in developing a "strategic
partnership" with Turkey if Turkey's democratic and human
rights standards were poor or deteriorating. Turkey's practices
in this respect, especially its legal and judicial systems, affect
the environment for UK nationals working, living and visiting
in Turkey; and a perception that Turkey has a poor democratic
and human rights record seems likely to be partly responsible
for the country's relatively low standing with the UK public.
If the Government is to achieve its aim of seeing Turkey inside
the EU, the Member States will need to be able to state that Turkey
fulfils the political criterion for accession, of exhibiting "stability
of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human
rights and respect for and protection of minorities".
Finally, the UK holds the six-monthly Chairmanship of the Committee
of Ministers of the Council of Europe from November 2011. The
Government's top priority for its Chairmanship is reform of the
European Court of Human Rights, with the intention, among other
objectives, of reducing its backlog of cases.
At the end of 2011, of the 47 states whose citizens can apply
to the Court, Turkey accounted for 10.5% of the 151,600 pending
cases requiring a judicial decision, second only to Russia.
The nature of AKP rule
51. Turkey's recent politics have consisted most
prominently of a struggle between, on the one hand, the secular
republican establishment (including the military), committed to
perpetuating what it sees as the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,
the founder of the Turkish Republic; and, on the other, political
forces with 'Islamist' roots. The struggle has been conducted
through constitutional amendment, judicial proceedings and military
intervention as well as elections. Since the parliamentary elections
of 2002, which re-ordered Turkey's political landscape, the main
Kemalist political party has been the social democratic Republican
People's Party (CHP), while the 'Islamists' have been represented
by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Having won office
in 2002 and re-election in 2007, the AKP won a third successive
victory in the election held in June 2011. It again increased
its share of the vote, to 49.8%. Dr Dimitar Bechev of the European
Council on Foreign Relations told us that the AKP had "largely
won [the] battle to emerge as [the] dominant force in Turkish
52. The degree and pace of change being wrought
in Turkey under AKP rule was one of the main themes to emerge
from our inquiry. Professor Dodd described the changes as "little
short of revolutionary", 
and one of our independent interlocutors in Turkey said that the
country was one of the fastest-changing in Europe.
53. Our witnesses and interlocutors were in agreement,
in particular, that AKP rule has seen a decisive and welcome assertion
of civilian over military political authority. The resignations
and replacements of the chief of the general staff and all three
service chiefs in July 2011 were seen as especially significant.
We heard from no-one who thought that another military intervention
in politics was likely in the foreseeable future.
Dr Robins described the military as "chastened", and
said that it was seeking "almost a partnership with the government",
whereby it could still influence policy in security matters that
were properly within its remit, while being aware that it could
no longer define almost any subject as a security issue.
Some interlocutors attributed the military's reticence partly
to the AKP government's continuing popularity, which might be
vulnerable were the economy to deteriorate (see Chapter 5). Dr
Robins speculated about an international turn back towards authoritarian
rule, under extreme economic conditions, in which case a military
comeback in Turkey might "seem less outlandish". However,
under current circumstances, he advised that "the working
position would be that the weakening of the military's influence
Some of our interlocutors said that there was still a way to go
to entrench in lasting institutional terms a proper role for the
military and comprehensive civilian oversight of it. The new constitution
planned by the re-elected AKP government was highlighted as an
important opportunity in this respect (see paragraphs 86-90).
54. Western responses to AKP rule have typically
been conditioned by the party's 'Islamist' roots. This has been
the case especially because of the charged international atmosphere
surrounding the relationship
between political Islam on the one hand, and democracy and the
West on the other, in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks
on the US and the 2004 and 2005 bombings in Madrid and London.
We heard that President Gül and Prime Minister Erdoðan
and others in the core AKP
circle were personally pious Muslims. We also heard that the AKP's
rule reflected and fostered the values of its often devout electorate,
which were undoubtedly more socially conservative than those of
However, all our witnesses who addressed the subject distinguished
these characteristics from an 'Islamist' political agenda and
said that it would be a misconception to see the AKP as seeking
to 'Islamicise' the Turkish state.
John Peet told us that the AKP had "governed in many respects
as a fairly normal centre-right party, akin to a European Christian
55. During his high-profile visit to Cairo in
September 2011, aimed at promoting Turkey's influence in Egypt
and other revolutionary Arab states (see
paragraphs 104 and 132), Prime Minister Erdoðan advocated
the secular state as wholly compatible with individuals' practice
of Islam. He said that Egyptians were "mistaken" if
they thought that secularism meant that religion would be removed
from the state, or that the population would be atheist; rather,
Mr Erdoðan said that secularism meant respect for all religions,
and for atheists. His remarks were reportedly poorly received
by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which did not furnish a large
sending-off crowd for Mr Erdoðan like the one which had greeted
him enthusiastically on his arrival in Cairo and in which Muslim
Brotherhood members had featured prominently.
56. We were made aware that there was some unease
among some of Turkey's secular population in case the AKP had
more 'Islamist' ambitions which were yet to become evident; and/or
in case informal and societal pressures and expectations came
to disadvantage secular citizens, even without formal institutional
or policy measures. Professor Dodd told us that "many Turks
are deeply worried that society is becoming more Islamic and will
not easily continue to accept it".
57. We have encountered little
evidence that the AKP government is seeking to 'Islamicise' the
Turkish state. We conclude that the AKP is best seen as akin to
a socially conservative Christian Democrat party, continuing to
govern within a secular state. However, some among Turkey's secular
population are uneasy lest the effort to make Turkish public life
more welcoming to openly devout Muslims comes to tip into disadvantage
for secular citizens. We recommend that the FCO should remain
vigilant on issues of religious freedom and discrimination and
should ensure that its Turkish partners are clear about its stance
in this respect.
LEGAL CASES AND JUSTICE SYSTEM
58. John Peet told us that "the
real danger with the [AKP] in government was never Islamism [...]
but rather the autocratic instincts of Prime Minister Erdoðan".
Mr Peet was sufficiently concerned about Turkey's direction of
travel under Mr Erdoðan
to advocate, in his editorial capacity at The
Economist, a vote for
the opposition CHP in the June 2011 election.
He told us that while he had been an admirer of the AKP government,
he had "legitimate grounds for worry about the future direction
of the country"
under its rule, in particular owing to some of Mr Erdoðan's
apparent personal traits.
Dr Bechev, Dr Robins, and Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffmann all expressed
concern that there was a concentration of power in AKP hands.
Professor Dodd said that the government did "not take criticism
and David Logan suggested that it was "impatient with restraints
on its exercise of power".
59. International concern about the quality of
democracy in Turkey rose through 2011 and into 2012 largely owing
to developments associated with the justice system. Human Rights
Watch told us that "the weakness in Turkey's criminal justice
system coupled with vaguely drawn laws [...] lead to persistent
human rights violations".
In January 2012, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human
Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, published a report on the administration
of justice in Turkey based on a visit there which he made shortly
before our own.
Mr Hammarberg concluded that there were "some long-standing,
systematic dysfunctions in the domestic justice system adversely
affecting the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
in Turkey, as well as the public's perception of the system's
effectiveness, independence, and impartiality".
In its commentary on Mr Hammarberg's report, as well as other
developments, the Financial Times identified "disturbing
signs of a growing authoritarianism" in Turkey.
The Turkish government rebutted many of the claims in Mr Hammarberg's
report in the response which it annexed to it.
60. Many of the most prominent controversial
legal proceedings are being pursued as part of one of two overlapping
groups of cases:
- "Ergenekon". Proceedings
began against those allegedly involved in the so-called "Ergenekon"
conspiracy in 2007. The conspiracy was allegedly aimed at the
violent overthrow of the AKP government, but the case has broadened
into investigations of the so-called "deep state" extending
back well before the AKP took office. The "deep state"
allegedly united Turkish military and security personnel with
terrorist and organised crime figures in defence of what was seen
as the established Kemalist order. Numbers can be hard to pin
down, but "Ergenekon" is reckoned to have caught up
hundreds of military officers, civil servants and journalists;
as of March 2012, two CHP MPs were among those imprisoned pending
trial. In January 2012, the former chief of the general staff
became one of the latest high-profile figures to be detained.
- "Sledgehammer". The
"Sledgehammer" proceedings are being brought against
those allegedly involved in an alleged military coup plot dating
to 2003. As of March 2012, an MP of the nationalist MHP opposition
party was among those detained.
As a consequence of the "Ergenekon" and
"Sledgehammer" cases, in early 2012 over 250 former
and serving military officers were reported to be in detention,
including around 10% of serving generals and admirals.
No convictions had been secured in either set of cases.
61. Dr Robins explained that there were two opposed
views of the cases:
One side says that this is payback time from the
AKP for hostile actions in the past against it by former military
figures, former journalists, former bureaucrats etc. Others
say [...] there has been a history in Turkey of conspiracies of
hidden activity aimed at subverting the government of the day
[...] even at bringing the military back to power.
In its latest annual 'progress report' on Turkey,
in October 2011, the European Commission said that the cases "remain[ed]
an opportunity for Turkey to shed light on alleged criminal activities
against democracy and to strengthen confidence in the proper functioning
of its democratic institutions and the rule of law".
Dr Robins told us that "it may have suited the [...] government
to intimidate, a little bit, some of its opponents", but
that the situation was now more likely to damage the government's
reputation, as the protracted nature of the "Ergenekon"
case "begins to infringe ideas of natural justice".
62. On 12 March 2012, as we finalised this Report,
the two most prominent journalists imprisoned as part of the "Ergenekon"
inquiry were released on bail, together with two others.
The releases were welcomed by the OSCE Representative on Freedom
of the Media, and by the international press freedom NGOs the
Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders.
63. A third set of controversial legal cases
concerns the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). The KCK
is an umbrella Kurdish organisation with links to the armed Kurdistan
Workers' Party (PKK). The UK lobby group Peace in Kurdistan told
us that the Turkish state regards the KCK as a front for the PKK,
which is proscribed in Turkey, the EU and the US as a terrorist
Most of those arrested in the KCK cases are suspected of terrorism-related
offences. Over 150 people are on trial in the main KCK proceeding,
with thousands reported to be on trial in total and hundreds in
As of March 2012, the detainees included six MPs of the main Kurdish
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), including one who had been convicted.
There was an intensified wave of arrests in late 2011 and early
2012 for alleged KCK connections (see paragraph 80).
64. On our visit to Turkey, we were taken aback
by much of what we heard about Turkish legal proceedings and practices,
finding them inconsistent with our experience otherwise of an
open and democratic country pursuing EU membership. We were struck
by shortcomings we heard about in four inter-linked areas, in
- Legislative and other statutory
reforms introduced in recent years, Turkish law allows prosecutors
a wide latitude to launch proceedings. This applies especially
with regard to membership of, or propaganda in favour of, a criminal
organisation (under Article 220 of the Criminal Code), and with
regard to terrorism-related offences under the Anti-Terrorism
Act. Turkish law also continues to set long maximum periods for
detention on remandup to 10 years in state security cases.
- Judicial capacity.
The Turkish justice system appears to be suffering from a serious
lack of capacity. This is helping to generate a major backlog
of cases: 1.4 million pending criminal cases and 1.1 million civil
cases at the end of 2010.
Lack of capacity is also a cause of excessively long proceedings,
which are the grounds for many of the judgments made against Turkey
by the European Court of Human Rights. It is not uncommon for
cases to last for over a decade.
The length of judicial proceedings in turn contributes to the
length of time for which many suspects are imprisoned on remand.
Suspects are sometimes not able to access full information about
the grounds for their detention or the evidence against them.
Clear public information about detainees and cases is also often
hard to come by.
- Judicial independence and
professional structure and culture.
We heard from interlocutors in Turkey that in some sense Turkish
judges and prosecutors may almost be too independentin
the sense of comprising a unified, homogenous cadre with
a set of long-established norms and sense of professional identity
and purpose, based on common socialisation and career incentives.
However, Dr Robins also set out the more commonly-heard concern
about the Turkish judiciary, namely that it is insufficiently
independent: he said that it was difficult for the judiciary to
remain independent in the face of "a single, dominant party
with a very clear leader whose modus operandi leans in
the direction of populist politics".
Either way, in his report Mr Hammarberg characterised the attitudes
exhibited by judges and prosecutors as "state-centred"
rather than rights-centred.
Given these circumstances, he suggested that, even where legislation
had been reformed, its intention could be subverted by the way
in which it was interpreted and applied by courts and prosecutors.
Developments since the September 2010 constitutional referendum
(which included reforms to the judiciary) and up to early 2012
surrounding a number of cases and legal amendments have tended
to strengthen concerns about judicial independence in Turkey.
In this context, the proposed new constitution is likely to have
particular significance for the independence of the judiciary.
65. We encountered a widespread view that torture
had largely been eliminated from the Turkish criminal justice
system, following significant efforts by the authorities. In 2011,
Turkey ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against
Torture, which obliges States Party to maintain an independent
national preventative mechanism for monitoring places of detention.
However, Human Rights Watch highlighted continuing concerns about
ill-treatment in custody, police violence against demonstrators,
and impunity for police abuses. It advocated the creation of an
independent police complaints authority, a step also urged by
Mr Hammarberg in his report.
66. David Lidington told us bluntly that "Turkey
is, regrettably, not yet in a place where one would have the same
confidence in the judicial system as one would in the judicial
systems of the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Norway and so
67. We found Turkish officials aware of the shortcomings
in the Turkish justice system. In Turkey, we heard about plans
to recruit more judges and prosecutors (although Mr Hammarberg
said in his report that this process has been underway for some
years, even as case backlogs had continued to grow). In January
2012, the Justice Minister announced a major package of reforms
to streamline procedures, eliminate some offences, reduce some
sentences and narrow grounds for pre-trial detention.
In a commentary, Mr Hammarberg of the Council of Europe said
that the proposals were "positive overall, [but did] not
go far enough to resolve the issues they seek to address [and
were] unlikely to represent a substantial improvement regarding
the human rights situation in Turkey".
While welcoming some elements of the package, Human Rights Watch
was similarly critical overall.
The FCO Minister Lord Howell told the House of Lords on 12 March
that the Government welcomed the package, and that he understood
further reforms to be planned. He also noted that the UK Embassy
in Ankara was involved with a number of projects with the Turkish
Ministry of Justice, including the training of judges and judicial
reform. The legal reform package may be passed into law during
March 2012, as this Report was being approved and published.
68. Some of the measures that appear to be required
in the Turkish justice system, such as judicial and prosecutorial
recruitment and training, and deep-seated attitudinal change,
will necessarily take time. Others, such as reform of some judicial
institutions, or statutory change to tighten definitions of offences
and reduce maximum pre-trial detention periods, could be undertaken
We recommend that the FCO should ensure that its Turkish partners
are in no doubt that the shortcomings in the Turkish justice system
are damaging Turkey's international reputation and leading to
human rights abuses, in ways that make it harder to advocate,
or imagine the realisation of, close UK-Turkey relations and Turkey's
EU membership. We further recommend that the FCO should offer
support to the package of reforms announced by the Turkish Justice
Minister in January 2012 and should let its Turkish partners know
that it would welcome the opportunity to assist in its further
development and in further reforms in the justice system as they
may request, involving also the Home Office and Ministry of Justice
69. Among human rights, freedom of expression
and the media appear to be significant casualties of the shortcomings
in the justice system. The FCO told us bluntly that "Turkish
law does not currently guarantee freedom of expression in line
with the European Convention on Human Rights and case law from
the European Court of Human Rights".
Large numbers of journalists have been caught up in the "Ergenekon"
and KCK cases: following the wave of KCK arrests at the end of
2011, the number of journalists in detention may reportedly have
reached around 100. This would put the number of journalists
in jail in Turkey above that in China or Iran.
In this environment, the FCO said that its media contacts reported
a climate of self-censorship, something echoed by Professor Dodd
and Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman, and which we also heard during our
has dropped from 102 (of 173) in Reporters without Borders' press
freedom index in 2008 to 122 (of 175) in 2009, 138 (of 178) in
2010 and 148 (of 179) in 2011-12.
Turkish government figures and officials told us consistently
that journalists were not being detained for their journalistic
activities; in late January 2012, the number being reported by
independent organisations for those definitely detained only for
their journalistic activities seemed to range between five and
70. Human Rights Watch also drew our attention
to Turkish government plans for an internet filtering system.
Since the June 2011 election, the AKP government has softened
its earlier proposals, but Human Rights Watch still saw cause
for concern in the fact that the Turkish executive and courts
were blocking an estimated 15,000 websites, sometimes owing to
their political content.
71. David Lidington told us that the Turkish
Ministry of Justice had initiated a visit to London for its officials
to discuss freedom of expression, following criticisms made by
the European Commission in its October 2011 'progress report'.
He described this as an "encouraging sign".
Changes aimed at enhancing freedom of expression are among the
legal reforms announced by the Turkish government in January 2012.
72. Human Rights Watch also drew our attention
to women's rights in Turkey. It welcomed the fact that
in 2011 Turkey became the first signatory of the Council of Europe's
new Convention on preventing and combating violence against women
and domestic violence. Turkey also became the first state to ratify,
on 14 March 2012. (As of mid-March 2012, the UK had not signed
the Convention.) However, Human Rights Watch said that overall
"women's rights in Turkey [were] still given insufficient
protection and priority". It urged the UK Government to press
its Turkish counterpart to amend the Law on the Protection of
the Family, to widen the law's applicability, as a first further
step against violence against women.
The FCO said that there had been improvements in women's rights,
but that honour killings, domestic violence, sexual assault and
forced marriage still gave cause for concern.
73. The FCO told us that Turkey had committed
to an extensive reform programme on religious freedoms.
We were pleased to hear about the return of many expropriated
properties to religious foundations, under amendments to the law
on foundations adopted in 2011, but we remain disappointed that
there appears to have been little movement towards the reopening
of the Orthodox seminary at Halki, which is crucial for the long-term
health of the Orthodox Church in Turkey.
74. Overall, the FCO said that there had been
"significant and positive changes in recent years" as
regards human rights in Turkey. Our witnesses agreed.
When they gave evidence in autumn 2011, John Peet and Sir David
Logan also felt that Turkey's human rights situation was continuing
to improve. However,
David Lidington acknowledged that Turkey still had "further
75. Human Rights Watch said that the Government
should attach higher priority to human rights issues in its relations
with Turkey. Professor
Dodd advised the Government to channel its efforts on democracy
and human rights in Turkey through the EU, rather than appear
to advance the UK as a modelalthough he recognised that
having reforms advanced by the EU brought its own risks, given
resentment in Turkey about the current blocking of its EU accession
process (see paragraphs 186 and 191).
Several other witnesses felt that the UK was especially well-placed
to promote democratic and human rights improvements in Turkey,
because of the goodwill accumulated there as a result of successive
UK Governments' support for the country and its EU accession ambitions;
witnesses felt that Turkish partners would not suspect the UK
of raising human rights concerns in order to derail Turkey's EU
We wondered whether the Government might be cautious about raising
such concerns, at least in public, in case Turkey's EU ambitions
were damaged as a result; but Dr Bechev said that UK Government
pressure on democracy and human rights was in any case best exerted
in a "friendly, behind the scenes" way.
Sir David Logan said similarly that it was most important to try
to find practical ways to assist Turkey on democracy and human
rights issues, rather than simply state concerns.
76. Turkey has made welcome
improvements in human rights standards in many areas over the
last decade, but there is the appearance of a reversal in some
respects. Many of the most potentially worrying developments concern
legal proceedings, so it is often hard to form an assessment in
the absence of firm public information about the relevant evidence,
but we are clear that the current climate in Turkey is limiting
freedom of expression and the media. This is despite the release
on bail of four prominent journalists in March 2012, which we
welcome. We conclude that Turkey's human rights record remains
a problem for the "strategic partnership" with the UK
which we support, and for Turkey's EU accession prospects. We
recommend that the FCO should suggest that the Turkish government
encourage prosecutors and judges to exercise restraint in the
use of arrest and pre-trial detention, pending more thorough-going
reform of the justice system. We further recommend that the FCO
should seek every opportunity to help Turkey in practical ways
to achieve further improvements in its human rights practices,
including as regards freedom of expression and the media.
77. Two of our academic witnesses separately
described the Kurdish issue as the "litmus test" for
In 2009, the AKP government initiated a 'Democratic Opening' towards
the Kurds which Human Rights Watch said represented "a ground-breaking
shift of language".
Most notably, a 24-hour Kurdish-language state television channel
was launched; some greater use of the Kurdish language was allowed;
and channels of communication were opened with Abdullah ½calan,
the jailed leader of the armed Kurdish nationalist organisation,
the PKK. The FCO told us that the democratic and cultural rights
of Kurds had improved in recent years,
and Sir David Logan said that the AKP government had done more
than any predecessor in terms of talking to the PKK and challenging
anti-Kurdishness in the nationalist press.
78. The 'Democratic Opening' ran into the ground
In 2011, and especially since the June parliamentary election,
the security situation and relations between the Turkish government
and the Kurdish community in the south-east have deteriorated
significantly. A renewed cycle of PKK attacks and counter-terrorist
operations by the authorities began in May. Turkey re-started
cross-border aerial and artillery attacks on PKK targets in northern
Iraq in July, and made a brief land incursion in October. By January
2012, "hundreds of rebels, including senior commanders"
were reported to have been killed in the Turkish operations, while
dozens had died in PKK attacks.
On 28 December, a Turkish air raid just inside the Turkish-Iraqi
border killed 34 Kurds who proved to be cross-border smugglers,
not PKK fighters.
79. The UK Representation of the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan (PUK), the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani,
told us that Turkish and Iranian attacks on Kurdish targets in
northern Iraq were in breach of international law and threatening
the security and stability of the country. It condemned what it
said was the UK Government's silence over the issue.
The UK lobby group Peace in Kurdistan urged the Government to
try to persuade its Turkish counterpart to halt the strikes.
David Lidington told us that the Government was "not comfortable"
with Turkey's cross-border operations, but that the Turkish deaths
being caused by PKK attacks were putting the government in Ankara
under domestic political pressure, and that the UK Government
felt it was "important to show solidarity".
80. In Turkey there has also been an intensified
and sweeping wave of arrests of activists, journalists and lawyers,
and officials and elected politicians of the main Kurdish political
party, the BDP, for terrorism-related offences, on the basis of
alleged links to the KCK. By early 2012, thousands of people were
reckoned to be on trial for such offences, with hundreds subject
to pre-trial detention; the BDP's functioning had been severely
in Kurdistan said that Kurds "widely regard [the KCK proceedings]
as a mass show trial designed to criminalise all Kurdish civil
Meanwhile, official communication with Mr ½calan appeared
to have ceased, and he was being denied access to his lawyers.
81. Human Rights Watch told us that the Turkish
government tended to "view [the Kurdish] issue through the
prism of counter-terrorism".
Peace in Kurdistan made the same contention. It said that "Turkey's
apparent current preference for a combined military and legalistic
strategy to eliminate Kurdish resistance is very much a step backwards
from the hopes of a 'democratic opening' announced only a couple
of years ago".
In the parliament elected in June 2011, the BDP has 29 MPs, a
rise from the previous legislature; but Peace in Kurdistan argued
that the subsequent launching of legal proceedings against non-violent,
legal, political and civil society organisations was likely only
to dissuade dissatisfied Kurds from pursuing peaceful and constitutional
82. The BDP struck us as advancing a moderate
programme which represented a potentially fruitful basis for engagement
with the Turkish governmentcomprising enhanced Kurdish
cultural rights (such as Kurdish-language education), and the
decentralisation of power from Ankara to a system of sub-national
government covering all of Turkey, not only the Kurdish-populated
areas. The BDP seemed to us to be in a less close relationship
to the PKK than, for example, Sinn Féin
was to the IRA in Northern Ireland. However, this might carry
disadvantages as well as advantages in terms of the BDP's ability
to 'deliver' in support of any settlement process the disaffected
Kurds in the south-east, among whom support for Mr ½calan
83. As regards the most advisable way forward,
there was some difference in approach among our witnesses. Human
Rights Watch and Peace in Kurdistan prioritised Kurdish cultural
rights, especially the right to mother-tongue education. Professor
Dodd cautioned that Turkish nationalists tend to see requests
for enhanced minority rights as leading to a 'slippery slope'
that ends in independence, so he suggested that "British
policy may need to be somewhat muted in this area".
Rather than Kurdish collective rights, he preferred the further
integration into Turkish political structures of Kurds with some
standing in Kurdish society (rather than 'Turkicised Kurds'),
floating the notion of a "Kurdish Lloyd-George" as a
future leader of Turkey.
All our witnesses agreed that there could be no military solution
to the Kurdish situation in the long term.
84. David Lidington implied that the Government
had a two-track policy: encouraging reconciliation between the
Kurdish population and the rest of Turkey, on the basis of improved
rights to freedom of expression and Kurdish language use; but
also supporting and co-operating with Turkey against PKK terrorism.
The FCO told us that recent police operations against the PKK
in the UK had led to several arrests, asset seizures and a significant
reduction in funding revenue.
Peace in Kurdistan charged the UK and EU with encouraging the
Turkish government to see the Kurdish issue primarily as one of
terrorism. However, the FCO said that PKK attacks "damage[d]
the political will to make difficult compromises towards solving
the Kurdish problem".
85. Prospects for peaceful steps
towards reconciliation between Kurds in the south-east and the
Turkish state appear to be receding and in the process of being
replaced by a return to confrontation and armed conflict. We are
concerned about the civilian casualtiesboth inside and
outside Turkeywhich are being caused by the upsurge in
the use of violence by both the PKK and the Turkish state. We
recommend that the FCO should urge the Turkish government to make
clear that the peaceful participation of representatives of the
Kurdish community in Turkish public life remains welcome. We further
recommend that the FCO should urge representatives of the Kurdish
minority to condemn PKK violence and clearly spell out their wishes
for enhanced cultural rights and sub-national government within
Turkey. We further recommend that the FCO should offer the parties
assistance, on the basis of the UK experience with Northern Irish
terrorism and UK devolution, in exploring practical steps that
could be taken now towards ending violence and achieving an accommodation
between the Turkish state and Turkey's Kurdish minority.
86. Several of our witnesses made clear that
many of the shortcomings which they identified in the quality
of Turkey's democracy and human rights practices derived from
deep-rooted ideas about the nature of Turkish identity and the
Turkish state that were encapsulated in the current constitution,
which reflected Ataturk's founding secular settlement. The constitution
was put in place in 1982, under military rule, and several witnesses
saw its defensive, state-centred spirit as underlying key negative
features of Turkish public life.
87. The AKP promised a new constitution as a
major plank of its 2011 election campaign. The AKP's idea of the
new constitution would appear to form part of its project to achieve
significant change in the fundamental principles of the Turkish
state, almost amounting to the foundation of a Second Republic.
Witnesses, including the FCO, saw the prospective new constitution
as a unique opportunity to signal decisively Turkey's move away
from its more authoritarian and military-dominated past, and to
entrench and develop the democratising and liberalising reforms
introduced in recent years.
Witnesses stated that the Kurdish question, in particular, could
only be addressed through fundamental constitutional reform.
Human Rights Watch said that the new constitution should:
remove existing restrictions on freedom of expression
and association, uphold the rights of all groups in Turkey and
end discrimination against Turkey's various ethnic and religious
minorities [...] guarantee the separation of powers, strengthen
the role of parliament and limit the powers of the president,
ensure the independence of the judiciary, and secure full civilian
oversight of the military.
Witness including the FCO welcomed the wide consensus
that appeared to exist in Turkey about the idea of a new constitution.
88. In the 2011 elections, the AKP failed to
win the parliamentary super-majority that would have enabled it,
if not to pass, then certainly to put to a referendum a new constitution
without involving other political parties. Professor Dodd called
this "good news for democracy".
The FCO also welcomed what it called Prime Minister
Erdoðan's "focus on compromise, dialogue and broad consultation
across Turkish society" in his initial remarks about his
plans for the constitutional process following the 2011 election.
In October, a parliamentary commission was establishedcomprising
three MPs from each of the four parliamentary partiesto
receive submissions and develop a proposed text. The parliamentary
Speaker has said that he hopes to see a new constitution in place
by the end of 2012.
However, Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman drew on the way in which the
AKP government handled Turkey's previous referendum, in September
2010, to suggest that the constitutional process might not prove
to be as inclusive and consensual as was promised.
89. Dr Robins told us that the renewed upsurge
in conflict between the Turkish authorities and the PKK had "completely
changed the national agenda as far as the direction of political
reform [was] concerned". He said that the new constitution
held out the promise of being "a new document for a new partnership
between Turks and Kurds living together within the overall community
of Turkey as citizens with equal rights", but that that prospect
had been derailed.
90. We conclude that a new constitution
could be a unique opportunity to advance democratic, liberalising
and pluralistic reform in Turkey and signal both at home and abroad
a decisive break with the country's more authoritarian past. We
welcome the Turkish government's ambitions in this respect, but
we are concerned lest the constitutional momentum is lost amid
renewed confrontation between government and opposition and Kurds
and the Turkish state. We are further concerned in case the new
constitution raises fresh risks to the independence of the judiciary.
We recommend that the FCO should continue to remind its Turkish
partners of the international importance that would attach to
a successful constitutional reform effort.
99 Ev 54 [FCO] Back
See Foreign Affairs Committee, Eighth Report of Session 2010-12,
The FCO's Human Rights Work 2010-11, HC 964, paras 7-12. Back
Ev 113 [Fadi Hakura] Back
Conclusions of the European Council, Copenhagen, 21-22 June 1993 Back
"Foreign Secretary announces UK priorities for UK Chairmanship
of Council of Europe", FCO press release, 7 November 2011;
Prime Minister David Cameron, Speech on the European Court of
Human Rights, Strasbourg, 25 January 2012 , via Number 10 website
European Court of Human Rights, Analysis of Statistics 2011,
January 2012, Chart 3, via www.echr.coe.int Back
Ev 85 Back
Ev 115; see also Ev 85 [Dr Bechev], Q 60 [Sir David Logan]. Back
Q 138 [Dr Robins] Back
Ev 87 [Dr Bechev], 100 [Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman], 119 [Turkish
Area Study Group] Back
Q 138 Back
Q 140 Back
Qq 84 [Sir David Logan], 164 [Dr Toksoz, on the position of women];
Ev 116 [Professor Dodd] Back
For example, Q 84, Ev 58 [Sir David Logan] Back
Q 32. The AKP is a member of the European People's Party, the
largest grouping of European Christian Democrat, conservative
and centre-right parties. Back
"Seeking Mideast influence, PM presents Turkey as model for
Arabs and for challenging Israel", Associated Press, 13 September
2011; "In Cairo, Brotherhood irked at Erdogan's call for
secular constitution. Islamists tell Turkish leader region's future
will be decided by Arabs alone", Jerusalem Post, 15
September 2011; "Moderate Egyptians said to welcome Turkish
premier's remarks on secularism", BBC Monitoring report of
article on Hurriyet website, 16 September 2011; Khaled Diab, "Recep
Tayyip Erdogan: Arab hero?", Guardian Unlimited, 22
September 2011 Back
Ev 116-117; see also Q 164 [Dr Toksoz, on the position of women]. Back
Q 32 Back
"One for the opposition", The Economist, 4 June
2011; see also John Peet, "Turkey after the 2011 Election:
Challenges for the AK Government", Chatham House transcript,
5 July 2011. Back
Qq 32, 41 Back
Ev 86-87 [Dr Bechev], 99-10 [Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman], Q 141
[Dr Robins] Back
Ev 116 Back
Ev 59 Back
Ev 89 Back
"Administration of justice and protection of human rights
in Turkey", Report by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for
Human Rights of the Council of Europe, 10 January 2012, CommDH(2012)2;
hereafter, Hammarberg Back
Hammarberg, para 125 Back
"Erdogan, justice and the rule of law", Financial
Times, 11 January 2012 Back
Ev 99 [Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman] Back
"Turkey clips military's wings while top brass leave the
field", Financial Times, 2 August 2011; Gareth H.
Jenkins, "The changing objects of fear: The arrest of Ilker
Basbug", Turkey Analyst, Vol. 5 No. 1, 9 January 2012;
"'Treason' in Turkey; Prosecutors wage war on suspected coup
conspirators-but at what cost to the country?", Newsweek,
5 March 2012 Back
Q 139 Back
European Commission, Turkey 2011 Progress Report, SEC(2011) 1201
final, 12 October 2011, p 7 Back
Q 139 Back
"Turkey: Court Frees 4 Journalists Accused in Plot",
New York Times, 13 March 2013 Back
"OSCE media freedom representative welcomes release of Turkish
journalists", press release, Vienna, 12 March 2012; "Turkey
releases journalists, grave concerns remain", Committee to
Protect Journalists, 12 March 2012; "Four journalists released
but fight goes on for dozens still held", Reporters without
Borders, 13 March 2013 Back
Ev 107 Back
Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012, p 504 Back
Ev 89 [Human Rights Watch]; Hammarberg, para 38 Back
European Commission, Turkey 2011 Progress Report, SEC(2011) 1201
final, 12 October 2011, p 17 Back
Of cases in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in which the Court found at least
one violation by Turkey, 28%, 36% and 33%, respectively, were
for excessive length of proceedings; "Table of violations"
for the relevant year, on the Statistics page of the Court's website
Ev 89 [Human Rights Watch]; Hammarberg, p 2 and Section I. Mr
Hammarberg reported that, as of April 2011, 43% of Turkey's prison
population had not been finally sentenced. In its response, the
Turkish government said that it was incorrect to include in the
tally those appealing their sentences, and that their exclusion
brought the figure down to 28%. Back
Ev 89 [Human Rights Watch] Back
Q 142 Back
Hammarberg, p 4 and para 113 Back
Hammarberg, pp 4-6 Back
Gareth H. Jenkins, "From politicization to monopolization?
The AKP's new judicial reforms", Turkey Analyst, Vol.
4, No. 3, 7 February 2011; "Turkey must do more to ensure
independent, impartial judiciary-UN rights expert", press
release, Gabriela Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence
of Judges and Lawyers, 14 October 2011; "Erdogan, justice
and the rule of law", Financial Times, 11 January
2012; "Erdogan moves to block inquiries", Financial
Times, 16 February 2012 Back
Ev 90 Back
Ev 90; Hammarberg, para 58 Back
Q 212 Back
"Turkey reform package seeks to streamline legal process",
Financial Times, 19 January 2012 Back
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
"Comments on the Turkish Bill on judicial reform of January
2012", Strasbourg, 20 February 2012, at www.coe.int/t/commissioner/Source/CommHR_comment_on_Turkish_Bill_on_judicial_reform.pdf Back
"Turkey: Draft Reform Law Falls Short", Human Rights
Watch, 13 February 2012 Back
HL Deb, 12 March 2012, col 34WA Back
Ev 54 Back
Committee to Protect Journalists, 2011 Prison Census (as of 1
December 2011); "Turkish journalists arrested in sweep",
Wall Street Journal Europe, 21 December 2011; "Charges
against journalists dim the democratic glow in Turkey", New
York Times, 5 January 2012; "Erdogan, justice and the
rule of law", Financial Times, 11 January 2012; "104
Journalists and 30 Distributors in Prison", report by the
Turkish human rights news website www.bianet.org/english, 31 January
2012; "Turkey leaves China standing when it comes to jailing
journalists", The Guardian, 14 March 2012 Back
Ev 54 [FCO], 100 [Dr Cengiz and Dr Hoffman], 116 [Professor Dodd] Back
Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index 2011-12, via www.en.rsf.org.
In 2011-12, the next lowest-ranked EU candidate country was at
94 (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and the lowest-ranked
EU member was Bulgaria at 80. Back
"CPJ condemns journalist arrests in Turkey", Committee
to Protect Journalists, Open Letter to Prime Minister Erdogan,
22 December 2011, via www.cpj.org; Committee to Protect Journalists,
2011 Prison Census (as of 1 December 2011); Roy Greenslade, "Trying
to get at the truth of Turkey's jailed journalists", Guardian
Unlimited, 9 January 2012 Back
Ev 90; Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012, p 505 Back
Q 193 Back
Ev 89 Back
Ev 54 Back
Ev 54 Back
For example, Professor Dodd at Ev 116 Back
Qq 43 [Mr Peet], 60 [Sir David Logan] Back
Q 193 Back
Ev 88 Back
Ev 116 Back
Q 45 [Mr Peet], Ev 87 [Dr Bechev] Back
Ev 87 Back
Q 79 Back
Ev 87 [Dr Bechev], 112 [Mr Hakura] Back
Ev 89 Back
Ev 54 Back
Q 80 Back
International Crisis Group, "Turkey: Ending the PKK Insurgency",
Europe Report No. 213, 20 September 2011 Back
"Death upon death", The Economist, 7 January
Ev 122 Back
Ev 108 Back
Q 215 Back
Human Rights Watch, "Turkey: Arrests expose flawed justice
system", 1 November 2011; "Turkey's human rights challenges",
19 December 2011; World Report 2012, p 504 Back
Qq 183-184 Back
International Crisis Group, "Turkey: Ending the PKK Insurgency",
Europe Report No. 213, 20 September 2011 Back
Ev 88 Back
Ev 105 Back
Ev 107-108. The BDP's 29 MPs do not include a further five who
were elected but have been prevented from taking their seats because
they are under arrest; and a further one who was elected but stripped
of his seat following conviction. Back
Ev 117 Back
Ev 117 Back
For example, Peace in Kurdistan at Ev 108 Back
Qq 183, 216-217 Back
Ev 72 Back
Ev 54 Back
For example, Sir David Logan at Ev 59, Q 77; Human Rights Watch
at Ev 88 Back
Q 147 [Dr Robins]; Ev 53 [FCO] Back
Q 80 [Sir David Logan], Ev 88 [Human Rights Watch] Back
Ev 88 Back
Ev 54 [FCO] Back
Ev 114 Back
Ev 54 Back
"End of 2012 deadline for new constitution", Hurriyet
Daily News, 31 October 2011 Back
Ev 99-100 Back
Q 147 Back