Thursday, January 29, 2009

Turkey and the ICC

The Parliamentary Council of Europe (PACE) issued a resolution yesterday calling on Turkey to sign and ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). Turkey is among eight of 48 Council of Europe countries -- including the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Monaco -- not to have ratified the Rome Statute. The resolution also urges all Council of Europe countries to fully cooperate with the ICC, addressing specific obligations States Parties have in so doing.

German MP Dr. Herta Daubler-Gmelin, chair of the Legal and Human Rights Committee of PACE, spearheaded the resolution alongside a report documenting the progress the ICC dossier has made in a number of Council of Europe countries, especially Turkey and the Czech Republic. MPs from Turkey endorsed the resolution, which also called on the United States, as an observer in the Council, and Israel, as an observer in PACE, to sign and ratify the Rome Statute.

Although ratification of the Rome Statute is not included in the Copenhagen Criteria, the ICC is part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Turkish ratification of the Rome Statute would go a long way in proving that Turkey is intent to act in accordance with the foreign policy principles adopted by EU member states, and further bolster support for its accession inside Europe. And, the issue of European accession aside, it would also go along way in garnering support for Turkey in its campaign against the PKK, allaying concerns of human rights activists that Turkey continues to subordinate human rights in its struggle against the terrorist organization -- and, in doing, often violates the rights of Kurdish citizens.

In 2004, Turkey amended Article 38 of the Constitution to allow for the extradition of Turkish citizens to the ICC. At the time, Prime Minister Erdogan stated that Turkey would be ratifying the Rome Stature in the near future. However, in January 2008, Erdogan reversed this position, citing concerns that Turkish assent might compromise its ability to deal effectively with the PKK. To add insult to injury, this past summer Turkey hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is currently facing prosecution by the Court for war crimes committed in the Sudanese genocide.

In yet another turn, AKP included ratification of the Rome Statute in its third harmonization package. CHP and MHP are opposed to ratification on the same grounds Erdogan presented last January, citing concern that the Rome Statute does not include terrorism within its jurisdiction. For a statement from the UN as to why this is so, click here.

As it has in the United States, the ratification to the ICC becomes fodder for nationalists, many of who launch misinformation campaigns about the Court. As evidenced by earlier resistance from Ali Sahin and the Justice Ministry, it is also important to impact that support for the Rome Statute is not universal among AKP politicians. This row within AKP and Erdogan's folding in January 2008 evinces deeper divisions within the party between hardcore nationalists and liberal reformers.

The Rome Statute enjoys enormous support within DTP and the Kurdish southeast. It also enjoys widespread support among Turkish civil society. According to TDZ, "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."

UPDATE 1/31 -- Click here for a recently issued press release from the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) on the PACE resolution.

UPDATE 2/4 -- The Coalition for the International Criminal Court has selected Turkey as this month's target in its universal ratification campaign (URC). To encourage Turkey's government to sign onto the Rome Statute, click here.

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