On 20 June 2016, three leading human rights advocates were jailed in Turkey. Erol Önderoğlu (Reporters Without Borders) was arrested after appearing in an Istanbul court. Şebnem Korur Fincancı (Turkey Human Rights Foundation) and Ahmet Nesin (journalist and writer) were arrested on the same day. They are being charged with disseminating terrorist propaganda, apparently because they have served as temporary editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem, a daily newspaper which focuses on the conflict between the government and the PKK.

The Turkish authorities have opened criminal investigations into 37 of the 44 people who protested against a crackdown on Özgür Gündem staff by joining a campaign to serve as one-day guest editors of the paper.

1. Has the Commission raised concerns about the use of anti-terror legislation to arrest journalists and academics, who are not accused of using violence, with the government in Turkey? If not, why not?

2. What consequences have human rights violations and the abuse of anti-terror laws had for EU-Turkey relations since the ‘statement’ on cooperation on migration management?

3. Are there concrete benchmarks for Turkey on issues such as the rule of law, the separation of powers, arbitrary detentions and freedom of speech with regard to the ‘statement’ on migration, and will recent developments impact on the plan to open Chapter 33?

Answer given by Mr Hahn on behalf of the Commission

The Commission is following with concern the situation with regard to freedom of expression and fundamental rights in Turkey. The Commission recalls, among others, the joint statement made on 21 June 2016 by the High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Hahn on the arrests of Prof. Fincanci and several journalists, including Mr Nesin(1).

The EU raises and defends these positions at all levels including at summits. During the European Council on 17-18 March 2016(2), the EU leaders reiterated that the EU expects Turkey to respect the highest standards when it comes to democracy, rule of law, respect of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. More recently, the EU has expressed serious concerns with regard to the broad application of the legislation on terrorism and organised crime on the occasion of the 124th meeting the EU-Turkey Association Committee of 31 May 2016.

As outlined in the Third Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap of 4 May 2016(3), as well as in the Second Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement of 15 June 2016(4), Turkey is expected to revise the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards, notably by better aligning the definition of terrorism in order to narrow the scope of the definition and by introducing a criterion of proportionality.

(1) http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2016/160621_01_en.htm
(2) http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/european-council/2016/03/17-18/
(3) COM(2016)0278.
(4) COM(2016)0349.