US representatives introduce legislation calling for sanctions on Turkish officials violating human rights

Liz Cheney (left) and Hakeem Jeffries

Two members of the US House of Representatives on Thursday announced the introduction of the “Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act of 2021,” a bipartisan piece of legislation condemning human rights abuses carried out by the Turkish government, which intensified after a coup attempt in July 2016.

The bill, which was introduced by Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat from New York, and Liz Cheney, Republican from Wyoming, calls for sanctions on officials who violate basic human rights to further the Erdoğan government’s campaign to purge opposition.

It is a companion bill to S.2403, which was introduced to the US Senate by Senators Edward Markey, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

“The United States cannot allow human rights abuses to go unanswered, especially from a NATO ally,” said Rep. Jeffries. “We must stand with the Turkish people and demand that President Erdoğan’s government stop the torture and killings, allow for freedom of the press, permit free expression and promote an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law. I thank Congresswoman Cheney and Senators Markey, Wyden and Merkley for joining me in introducing this important piece of legislation.”

The legislation specifically directs the secretary of state to provide assistance to civil society organizations in Turkey that work to secure the release of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. It also makes it a Statement of Policy for the United States to support democracy, peace and prosperity in Turkey and to oppose the Erdoğan government’s attack on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

The bill asks the Turkish government to improve human rights in Turkey including taking steps to significantly improve the dire climate for journalists; cease its ongoing crackdown on free expression on the Internet; halt its indiscriminate detention and prosecution of lawyers, judges and prosecutors; and fulfill its obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

“For too long the Erdogan regime has sought to silence dissent, thought, and expression in Turkey by imprisoning opposition and suppressing human rights,” said Rep. Cheney. “The Erdogan regime must be held accountable for these abuses. I am proud to sponsor this legislation to stand for a free press and denounce the Turkish government for repressing freedom within their country.”

The legislation expresses the Sense of Congress that if the Turkish government fails to take effective steps to address its human rights violations, the president should impose sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act with respect to Turkish officials responsible for the detention of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners and other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights; the secretary of state should impose visa restrictions under the so-called “Khashoggi Ban” for those engaged in serious extraterritorial counter-dissident activities; and the treasury secretary should direct US executive directors of key international financial institutions to oppose any loans, grants, policies or strategies determined to be enabling the government of Turkey to violate the human rights of its citizens.

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