Turkish gov’t wants to veto civil society organisations at the OSCE

The Turkish government has been attempting to veto civil society organisations affiliated with the Gülen movement at the annual meeting of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which will be held in September, according to a report by American journal Foreign Policy.

Each September, civil society organizations from OSCE member states meet with government representatives for Europe’s largest human rights conference, the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. For many civil society organizations, the event is the lone opportunity they have to address government representatives.

“But if Turkey gets its way, those civil society organisations won’t include NGOs affiliated with Gülen movement… The Turkish government’s demand for a veto over civil society organizations’ participation has some worried that Ankara will weaken a critical event in the human rights community — and set an example for other countries in the process,” the report said.

Last September, the Turkish delegation stormed out after an opening speech to oppose participation of the Gulen-affiliated Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF). Earlier that year, Turkey managed to rid the JWF of its consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) over a technicality. Though the group lost its consultative status at the UN, it still came to September’s OSCE meeting.

A representative for the JWF told Foreign Policy that the organization was not given a chance to reply to claims that it is a terrorist organization. “Of course because this is an allegation without any proof and a groundless claim,” the representative said.

According to the report, in the fall of 2017, the Turkish government, which can block the dates and agenda of the Human Dimension Meeting, attempted to establish a veto over which civil society organizations could join the event. A working group that was set up last fall to deal with the issue is expected to meet Friday.

“In January, US Senators Roger Wicker and Ben Cardin wrote to Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell expressing concerns about countries calling for a ‘vetting’ mechanism for civil society organizations, specifically citing Turkey,” according to Foreign Policy.

“Turkey’s attempt to limit civil society participation at the OSCE rejects its commitment to promote freedom as a NATO ally. The State Department is right to join the Commission in opposition to these actions,” Wicker wrote in a comment to Foreign Policy.

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