Rights groups call on EU to strengthen commitment to improvement of fundamental rights and rule of law in Turkey

Improvement in fundamental rights and the rule of law should be at the heart of EU-Turkey relations, said 16 human rights and freedom of expression organizations on Wednesday in a joint letter ahead of a European Council meeting June 24-25.

In their letter, addressed to Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the organizations underlined that the human rights situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate.

“Turkey blatantly refuses to implement calls of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to release human rights defender Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş,” the letter said. “A closure case against the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) on top of the trial of dozens of its politicians for their political speeches and tweets shows how the criminal justice system is used as a cudgel against the elected parliamentary opposition.”

According to rights the organizations, efforts to engage with Turkey on other broader geopolitical issues must be balanced with addressing the ongoing deterioration of the rule of law and protection of fundamental rights.

They urged Michel and von der Leyen to ensure that the positive agenda proposed by the EU prioritizes concrete and measurable improvements in Turkey’s domestic human rights record.

The organizations asked the European Council to “explicitly call on the Turkish government to release all prisoners of conscience, put an end to the practice of detaining elected officials, lawyers and journalists, halt political influence over the judiciary and immediately implement rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.”

Signatories of the letter included Human Rights Watch, ARTICLE 19 and the International Press Institute (IPI).

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