Friday, March 14, 2008

EU Draft Calls on Ergenekon Investigation Among Other Measures

A recent draft of the European Parliament's assessment of Turkey's progress toward European Union membership calls on Turkey to aggressively investigate the Ergenekon gang's connections to the state. As documented in the United States Department of State's recently released country report of human rights practices in Turkey, this is more easily said than done. The connection between judges and prosecutors is often strong and there is no doubt a great amount of political influence wielded in these relationships that might run counter to such aggressive inquiry.

The draft welcomes Erdoğan's recently stated commitment to EU reform measures, in particular the newly passed Foundations Law, but harshly criticizes the fact that little has been done to address Article 301 and other measures limiting freedom of expression in Turkey. These measures are themselves strongly connected to the structure of Turkey's judiciary and demonstrate the very political nature of juridical practice in the country. Of note is that the tone is much less vitriolic than the EU Parliament report of last June (see Jan. 19 post).

An article in yesterday's Today's Zaman summarizes the EU draft report.
EU calls on Turkey to uncover Ergenekon’s links in state

The European Parliament, one of the European Union's strongest institutions, has called on Turkey to investigate the shadowy Ergenekon network to unearth its "deep connections" within the state.

The Ergenekon gang, a neo-nationalist group accused of involvement in plans to stage a violent uprising against the government, was discovered at the end of an investigation that came upon the heels of a police raid in June of last year that uncovered an arms depot in a house in İstanbul's Ümraniye district. The prosecutor in the Ergenekon case has said the gang worked to create disorder and chaos through divisive and violent acts so the public would be willing to accept a military intervention to restore order.

"Turkish authorities should resolutely pursue investigations into the Ergenekon affair, to fully uncover its networks reaching into the state structures and to bring those involved to justice," the draft report, prepared by Dutch Christian Democrat MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten, said.

The group is suspected of involvement in the murder of three Christian missionaries in Malatya in 2007, the 2006 murder of a priest in the northern city of Trabzon, the murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, a 2006 attack on the Council of State and a grenade attack on daily Cumhuriyet in 2006.

The draft report also strongly called on the government to speed up its reform process and fulfill its promises on sensitive issues such as Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The nine-page draft viewed by Today's Zaman is expected to be discussed at the Foreign Affairs Committee in April and to be approved by the parliament in May.

The draft, which is expected to be amended several times before approval by the European Parliament, welcomes a declaration by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that 2008 would be the year of reforms. Another development that the report refers to with satisfaction is the civilian authorities' success in confronting the military interference in the political process back in April, when the government boldly rejected an intervention by the military in the process of presidential elections.
Welcoming Parliament's passage of the Law on Foundations granting broader property rights for non-Muslim minorities, the draft calls for vigorous further steps for reforms. Calling the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) a terror organization, the draft says the PKK should declare an immediate and unconditional cease-fire. The draft also took note of Erdoğan's statements on assimilation, which he made in Germany and which were widely criticized in EU capitals. Erdoğan said in Germany last month that the government wanted the Turks to integrate better in the German society, but rejected assimilation, saying it was a "crime against humanity."

In her draft report Oomen-Ruijten refrained from using the word “genocide” to describe events of World War I, which Armenians claim amounted to a genocide of their ancestors in eastern Anatolia by the Ottoman Empire. She instead called on Turkey and Armenia to work together to start a process of reconciliation. Oomen-Ruijten, in her previous resolution on Turkey last fall, came under enormous pressure from Armenian groups to refer to a genocide, but she refused to do so.


Basic issues highlighted in report
* Civilian-military relations: [The European Parliament] welcome[s] the fact that in 2007 democracy prevailed over attempts by the military to interfere in the political process; encourages the Turkish government to make further systematic efforts to ensure that the democratically elected political leadership bears full responsibility for formulation of domestic, foreign and security policy and that the armed forces respect this civilian responsibility.

* 301: [The] Turkish government and the Parliament should carry out, as a priority, the repeatedly promised reform of Article 301 of the Penal Code; [the European Parliament] deplores the fact that no progress has been achieved regarding freedom of expression.

* Law on Foundations: [The European Parliament] welcome[s] the recent adoption by the Turkish Parliament of the Law on Foundations; welcomes the commission’s intention to examine the new text, and underlines that it should analyze whether the law addresses all shortcomings faced by non-Muslim religious communities with regard to property management and acquisition, including expropriated property sold to third parties.

* PKK: [The European Parliament] strongly condemn[s] the violence perpetrated by the PKK ... reiterates its solidarity with Turkey in its fight against terrorism; and once again calls on the PKK to declare and respect an immediate and unconditional cease-fire.

* Northern Iraq: [The] Turkish government should not engage in any disproportionate military operations violating Iraq’s territory; urges Turkey to respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, human rights and the rule of law, and to ensure that civilian casualties are avoided; urges the government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq not to allow Iraqi territory to be used as base for terrorist acts against Turkey.

* Kurdish Issue: [The] Turkish government should launch, as a matter of priority, a political initiative favoring a lasting settlement of the Kurdish issue, which can only be based on tangible improvements in the cultural, economic and social opportunities available to citizens of Kurdish origin, including real possibilities to learn Kurdish and to use it in broadcasting and in access to public services; calls upon the [Democratic Society Party] DTP, its members of parliament and mayors to engage constructively in the quest for a political solution to the Kurdish issue within the democratic Turkish state.

* Armenia: [The] Turkish government should end the economic blockade and re-open its border with Armenia; calls once again on Turkish and the Armenian governments to start a process of reconciliation, in respect of the present and the past, allowing for a frank and open discussion of past events.

* Hrant Dink murder: [The European Parliament] strongly urge[s] the Turkish authorities to carry out a full investigation into the murders of Hrant Dink and of the three Christians in Malatya, as well as all other cases of politically or religiously motivated violence, including full clarification of allegations of negligence on the part of the competent authorities, and to bring all responsible to justice.

* Constitution: Takes note of the process under way to prepare a new, civilian constitution; regards it as a key opportunity to place the protection of human rights and freedoms at the core of the constitution.

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