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EU: Act to end Turkey's abuse of criminal justice system against journalists

We call on the European Union and Member States to do more to end the ongoing abuse of Turkey's criminal legal proceedings against journalists, writers and human rights defenders. EU institutions and States must work actively to end abusive emergency measures that impinge on human rights and advocate to protect space for civil society and human rights defenders. We urge EU actors and Member States to put these concerns to the fore front of dialogues and agreements with Turkey.

European Union (R) and Turkish flags fly at the business and financial district of Levent in Istanbul, Turkey, 4 September 2017
European Union (R) and Turkish flags fly at the business and financial district of Levent in Istanbul, Turkey, 4 September 2017

REUTERS/Osman Orsal

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 7 December 2017.

PEN International, PEN Belgium/Flanders, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Article 19, the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Index on Censorship, the Global Editors Network (GEN), PEN American, Danish PEN, English PEN, Norwegian PEN, Wales PEN Cymru, Reporters without Borders (RSF), and the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), welcome the opportunity to deliver this statement. From our collective findings we have developed four specific requests to the European Union (EU), its institutions including the European Parliament, and its Member States:

First, we call on the EU, its Institutions and its Member States to implement the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression and EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders and to live up to these commitments.

In the context of Turkey this means doing more to end the indiscriminate abuse of criminal legal proceedings against journalists and writers; calling more actively for an end to abusive state of emergency measures that impinge on human rights; and, advocating against restrictive legislation shrinking the space for civil society and human rights defenders. These concerns should be put front and centre. Not only featuring in political dialogues and high level visits, these issues must play a more prominent role when revisiting economic, trade and other agreements between the EU, its Member States and Turkey. Further, we believe the EU and its Member States should be more active when it comes to monitoring and condemning human rights violations.

Second, civil society is under attack in Turkey, and the space for civil society actors and human rights defenders is shrinking. Beyond the immediate impact on activists who are judicially or otherwise persecuted, the Turkish authorities' actions are also having a chilling effect on actors who up until now have escaped the crackdown. We call on the EU and its Member States to continue and expand its support to Turkish civil society, both politically and financially.

Third, it is our view that Turkey has been abusing INTERPOL's Red Notice system to attempt to extend internationally its persecution of journalists, writers and others for having exercised peacefully their right to freedom of expression and opinion. The number of Red Notice requests emanating from Turkey has dramatically increased, and while under INTERPOL's Constitution human rights must be respected in its operations and interventions of a political character are strictly prohibited, we believe that Turkey has been abusing the system in pursuit of nefarious political objectives.

We call on the EU and its Member States to:

- Refrain from carrying out arrests on the basis of Red Notices coming from Turkey when there are serious concerns that they may be abusive; and,
- Make use of their influence within INTERPOL to push for reforms of the INTERPOL system, including strengthening preventative checks before Red Notices are circulated, strengthening its appeals system, and compensating victims of abusive Red Notices.

Finally, considering the many fair trial violations we have observed throughout our trial monitoring and the many other human rights violations committed by the Turkish authorities since the state of emergency was declared, the role of the European Court of Human Rights in ensuring justice for victims has become ever more important. This is especially important at a time when the Council of Europe's human rights system is under pressure from actions - or lack thereof - of both EU and non-EU Member States. Even withstanding the political and financial restraints placed on the Council of Europe, it appears too deferential towards Turkey.

We therefore call on the EU and its Member States to:

- Use their influence within the Council of Europe and urge them to be less deferential towards Turkey; and
- Play a positive and guiding role with a view to implementing and strengthening the EU's and the Council of Europe's shared commitments to democracy and human rights.

As international civil society actors, we are ready to contribute our expertise to constructive efforts by the EU and its Member States to support persecuted journalists and writers in Turkey and to improve the situation for freedom of expression in the country.

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