Letter: Turkey's attempts to crush human rights

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Austin-Walker has written (Letters, 20 December) about human rights violations in Turkey, particularly with respect to the arrest of journalists from the Ozgur Gundem newspaper. His letter is particularly relevant given the recent report by Hugh Pope (18 December) of the arrest of two television reporters (since released pending trial) who had merely hosted a programme which included interviews with conscientious objectors.

Unfortunately, if anything, Mr Austin-Walker underestimates the true scale of the human rights problem in Turkey. Most abuses take place in the context of the government's attempts to crush the armed uprising in (largely Kurdish) south-east Turkey, and have included the destruction or forced evacuation by government forces of hundreds of Kurdish villages. Torture of prisoners is routine, and the 'disappearance' and killing of journalists, Kurdish politicians and human rights activists are an almost daily occurrence. The main armed opposition group, the PKK, is also responsible for human rights abuses, though on a far smaller scale.

An extremely worrying development is the imminent resumption of executions following a nine-year de facto moratorium. In November, the Parliamentary Judicial Commission confirmed the death sentence on a convicted (non-political) murderer, and now all that is needed for the sentence to be carried out is for a simple majority of the Turkish parliament to vote in favour - the date of the vote is not known but may be in January. If the hanging does take place, not only is Amnesty concerned that it will clear the way for the execution of political prisoners, but also that it will constitute a severe setback for the cause of abolition of the death sentence in Western Europe.

Yours faithfully,

PAUL MANSOUR

Turkey Co-ordinator

Amnesty International, British Section

Birmingham

21 December

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