Turkey’s exclusion from democracy summit related to democracy, rights record: White House

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 28, 2022. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)

The absence of Turkey and Hungary, both members of NATO, from an online democracy summit held by US President Joe Biden this week has to do with the situation of democracy, human rights and freedoms in those countries, a White House spokesperson said, Turkish Minute reported, citing Voice of America Turkish edition.

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby was asked during a press briefing at the White House on Tuesday about the US administration’s decision not to invite Turkey and Hungary to the second edition of the online Summit for Democracy 2023, which is being hosted by Biden March 28-30.

Kirby said the participant list is drawn up in accordance with the state of the countries’ democratic institutions and their determination to promote human rights, rule of law and media freedom.

It was the second time that neither country has been invited to the summit, the first version of which was held in 2021.

Turkey has seen an erosion of democracy and backsliding of human rights and freedoms as well as media freedom in past years under what many say is the “one-man rule” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which is criticized for lacking checks and balances and destroying the separation of powers, and hence the rule of law, in the country.

According to an annual report from Amnesty International released on Monday, widespread human rights violations continued to take place in Turkey throughout 2022. The report recounted ongoing human rights issues such as the suppression of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, as well as widespread discrimination, torture and ill-treatment.

The US State Department also recently drew attention to pervasive human rights violations in Turkey in its 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices with a subsection on Turkey in which it details human rights violations in the country

The report listed credible reports of arbitrary killings; suspicious deaths of persons in custody; forced disappearances; torture; arbitrary arrest and continued detention of tens of thousands of persons, including opposition politicians and former members of parliament, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and an employee of the US Mission, for purported ties to “terrorist” groups or peaceful legitimate speech; and political prisoners, including elected officials, as being among the most significant human rights issues in the country.

Biden has also made a point of highlighting Turkey’s deteriorating record on human rights — an issue that was largely overlooked by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

It took him three full months after his inauguration to place his first call to Turkish President Erdoğan.

That was to inform him that Washington was recognizing the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Relations between the US and Turkey took a nosedive after Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system that the US believes can be used to spy on Western defenses. Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey’s military procurement agency for the purchase in 2020. It also expelled Turkey from the F-35 jet striker program under which Western allies produce the next-generation fighter jet’s parts and secure early purchasing rights.

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