Turkey's rights record criticised

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The Independent Online
TURKEY'S record on national minorities and human rights - central elements in the Helsinki process - is the focus of renewed criticism as world leaders converge on Helsinki for the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Despite the promises of rapid reforms made by the Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel, when his coalition government took power nine months ago, parliament has so far failed to approve even a judicial reform law that would allow lawyers to be present during initial interrogations.

This simple measure is seen as the key to ending widespread police beatings and frequent torture by ill-trained Turkish police seeking confessions.

The legislation had been vetoed by the President, Turgut Ozal, and watered down on the grounds that it would hamper the security forces in their fight against Kurdish rebels and left-wing terrorists.

But a report warns of Turkey's continued abuse of human rights. 'Rights and freedoms were violated in a way that was no better than the past,' said the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey in a report that said 1,038 soldiers, police, militants, Kurdish rebels and civilians had been killed in the first six months of the year.

Courts confiscated 41 periodicals and imprisoned two radical writers. Six journalists were killed in unsolved murders and 31 beaten up by security forces. Eleven people died in detention 'in suspicious circumstances'. Another 53 people were proven to have been tortured, including 32 women and six children.

The foundation did not count deaths in the Kurdish rebellion separately, but it estimated about 950 dead in six months - 228 from security forces, 315 civilians and 407 people linked to the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The foundation said 131 people were killed in a mysterious war in south-east Turkey between Kurdish nationalists and a group known as Hizbullah, which was blamed for 86 of the deaths. Hizbullah is believed to be backed by an ultra-nationalist part of the state to carry out extra-judicial killings.