The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has underlined the importance of protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law – including when fighting terrorism – in Turkey as in all other Council of Europe member states.
Speaking at a conference on Turkey’s Action Plan on Human Rights, the Secretary General said that the failed coup attempt of three years ago was “an illegitimate attack on the democratic institutions of this country”. She underlined that the Turkish government will continue to have the Council of Europe’s practical and technical support in the framework of human rights-related reforms.
The Secretary General emphasised that the long-lasting cooperation between the Council of Europe and Turkey - the organisation's second-largest member state and a member since 1950 - has brought positive results, such as the right of individual application to the Constitutional Court in Turkey and the court’s important jurisprudence.
The finalisation of the new Action Plan on Human Rights is another of those results, said the Secretary General. However, progress is still needed on some outstanding issues, in particular shortcomings identified by the European Court of Human Rights in the areas of criminal justice, deprivation of liberty and freedom of expression.
The Secretary General said that the ambiguity of some legislation, the limited or narrow interpretation of human rights standards and excessive limitations on rights and freedoms are still at the origin of many applications to the European Court of Human Rights.
“To overcome these problems, changes in judicial interpretation and further legislative amendments are needed,” she said. The Action Plan must therefore reinforce domestic tools to ensure human rights protection, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, which will further imbed individuals’ rights in Turkish law and practice.
“Achieving maximum effect will require political drive, intensive judicial interaction between Strasbourg and Ankara, inclusive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders – including civil society and media organisations – and the determination of the Turkish authorities, at the highest level, to ensure that change is put into practice,” concluded the Secretary General.
Following a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Secretary General said: “I had a frank and very constructive meeting with the President in which we covered many issues of common concern, in particular the growing threat of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.”
The Secretary General also commended Turkey for its major efforts in accommodating and providing aid to Syrian refugees.