Letter: Hollow reforms in Turkey

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The Independent Online
From Mr Tony Benn, MP and others

Sir: On 13 December the European Parliament voted to ratify the Customs Union with Turkey. It qualified its assent by a resolution calling on the Turkish government and parliament to continue reform in order "to guarantee an ongoing improvement of the human rights situation" in Turkey. However, recent "democratic reforms", pushed through by Tansu Ciller's government to prepare the ground for acceptance into the Customs Union, are already appearing hollow.

Victims of Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law warned that the limited amendments agreed by the Turkish parliament did not guarantee freedom of expression in Turkey. Ironically, as the European Parliament discussed the Customs Union, 10 human rights activists were being indicted in Ankara under Article 159 of the Turkish penal code for statements deemed insulting to the laws of the republic. Spokespersons for some of the present government parties have clearly stated that they will not be bound by any EU resolutions on human rights, or by the international Court of Justice. Nor is there any sign of a let-up in the military campaign against the Kurdish population.

In contrast, on 14 December, Abdulah Ocalan, PKK chairman, responded to the European Parliament's appeal for the Turkish government and Kurdish organisations to find a "non-violent and political solution" to the conflict by declaring a unilateral ceasefire.

It is vital that the spirit and letter of the European Parliament resolution on the Customs Union is observed, and pressure immediately exerted on the incoming Turkish government to respond in a positive way to the PKK's initiative.

Yours faithfully,

Tony Benn

Bruce Kent

Harold Pinter

London, SW1