Sunday, August 24, 2008

Turkey a State-Party to the ICC? (İnşallah.)

Also, part of that third harmonization package . . .

From Today's Zaman:

Turkey has plans to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the treaty which created the first permanent global court capable of trying individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, as part of the government's new European Union reform package, but the move has already produced heated debate.

Opponents of the treaty are concerned that members of the military who were involved in Turkey's fight against terrorism and soldiers who carried out the Cyprus Peace Operation could be tried by the court.

[This is ludicrous because the ICC only has jurisdiction of crimes committed after 1 July 2002, but such nonsensical criticisms are typical and, as is the case here, often go uncorrected when reported in the Turkish media.]

The Justice Ministry and the Foreign Ministry had a falling out over the issue in 2007, but the Justice Ministry prevailed in convincing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not to sign the treaty. Turkey declared at the time that it would not sign the treaty unless the court has jurisdiction over the crime of terrorism. With this demand Turkey intended to ensure that high-level members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who reside in European countries are tried by the ICC, but the EU rejected this demand.

. . . .

The EU has issued repeated calls for Turkey's ratification of the Rome Statute, which it sees as an essential component of the democratic model and values of the EU since Turkey is the only EU candidate country that has not ratified the treaty.

In a statement before the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on Oct. 8, 2004, Erdoğan declared, "Turkey will soon approve the Rome Statute … and will become part of the International Criminal Court coalition."

In February 2005 an international coalition of more than 2,000 nongovernmental and civil society organizations, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), in a campaign initiated by Amnesty International called on the Turkish government to ratify the Rome Statute.

The CICC also noted the advances made in Turkey regarding constitutional amendments, in particular the amendment to Article 38 that allows for the extradition of Turkish citizens to the ICC, as well as the full abolition of capital punishment, limitations on the Turkish military's authority and strengthening of press freedom. The group stated that in early 2004 Turkey also joined the Friends of the ICC, a group of states that work to support the goals of the ICC.

Following Erdoğan's promising statement before PACE, the Foreign Ministry started preparations for ratification, but since the Justice Ministry opposed the move, preparations were suspended.

The world's first permanent criminal court, the ICC was established in The Hague, the Netherlands, on July 1, 2002, when the Rome Statute entered into force. The court does not have jurisdiction over any crimes prior to that date. The ICC may also have jurisdiction in situations referred to it by the UN Security Council. In accordance with the court's principle of complementarity, however, the ICC will only act when national courts have been unable or unwilling to do so. The court's chief prosecutor last month requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Justice Ministry officials have stressed that all high-level officials who have been involved in the fight against PKK terrorism since the treaty went into force could be tried at the ICC. They say the PKK's upper ranks have been preparing to ask the ICC to prosecute Turkish commanders fighting the terrorist organization in Turkey's East and Southeast. In addition, opponents of the treaty bring up the example of the United States, which refuses to ratify the Rome Statute.

Among the several international civil society groups that have demanded Turkey ratify the treaty are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) and the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly. As part of a campaign initiated by Amnesty International Turkey in 1997, a national coalition of NGOs, including the TİHV, the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER), the Human Rights Agenda Association, the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly, are also lobbying for the ratification of the ICC treaty.

For the full article, click here.

As expected, CHP and MHP, opposition parties controlled by ultra-nationalists, are opposed to the Rome Statute on the grounds that it means the surrendering of a significant amount of Turkish sovereignty to an international body. As evidenced by the Justice Ministry's resistance, it is also important to impact that support for the Rome Statute is not universal among AKP politicians. AKP is by no means immune from similar nationalist sentiments. The Rome Statute has enormous support within DTP and the Kurdish southeast.

Turkey's ratification of the Rome Statute would prove a monumental development for the advancement of human rights, and would go a long way in providing structure to the Turkish state's handling of the Kurdish question and possibly prevent the kind of abuses that occurred in the 1990s.

To endnote, see the ICC's explanation of why terrorism is not addressed within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

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