Europe's PACE votes to re-open Turkey human rights monitoring

By bne IntelliNews April 25, 2017

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a leading European human rights body, on April 25 voted to reopen the monitoring procedure against Turkey, citing concerns over what it sees as the stifling of dissent and rights violations, Reuters reported.

The vote to restart the formal procedure against Ankara reportedly passed with 113 votes in favour versus 45 against.

It was taken in the wake of tensions generated by the April 16 referendum vote in Turkey which was marred by proliferating allegations of ballot box irregularities and claims that the campaign environment was unfairly skewed in favour of the Yes camp.

The government claims the Yes camp won a narrow victory to bring in an executive presidency with sweeping powers. The opposition, which has so far failed in its fight against a decision which saw unstamped ballot papers counted in the referendum, is concerned that Turkey's new-style government will not face proper checks and balances.

PACE decided to close the monitoring procedure in 2004 as a result of EU-oriented reforms that Turkey implemented in the early 2000s.

Its monitoring helps Council of Europe member states to fulfil their pledge to uphold the highest democratic and human rights standards, PACE says in an explanatory note on its website.

In response to the PACE move against Turkey, the Turkish foreign minister put out a statement of protest, reading: “We strongly condemn this unjust decision of PACE taken with political motives in contravention to the established procedures.”

“Despite such an unjust, politically motivated and biased decision by PACE, Turkey will continue with its resolve to further enhance the rights and freedoms of its citizens without compromising on democratic standards, human rights and its commitment to international obligations in this field,” it added.

The co-rapporteurs of the monitoring committee recommended that PACE “re-open the monitoring procedure until its concerns are addressed in a satisfactory manner,” according to Hurriyet Daily News.

“After clear decision by Council of Europe to put Turkey under monitoring, now suspension of EU accession talks big step closer,” Kati Piri, the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, wrote on Twitter.

On April 24, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the European Commission should explore new arrangements with Turkey to ease mutual frustrations and promote cooperation.

Hahn called on EU foreign ministers to consider a new format for relations with Turkey when they meet in Malta on April 28.

EU leaders are also expected to exchange views at a meeting over Brexit on Saturday, Reuters said.

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