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Media Watch 2005

18 March 2005
Source: Reuters
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Comment: The following is Reuters article of 18 March 2005.
Turkish Rights Group Says Abuses Still Widespread
"Human-rights abuses including torture and curbs on freedom of expression remained widespread in Turkey in 2004 despite a flurry of EU-inspired reforms, a leading Turkish rights group said on Friday... "Torture is still very widespread, the right to life still cannot be guaranteed and (freedom of) thought continues to be criminalised and punished,"..."

ANKARA (Reuters) - Human-rights abuses including torture and curbs on freedom of expression remained widespread in Turkey in 2004 despite a flurry of EU-inspired reforms, a leading Turkish rights group said on Friday.

In its annual report, the Ankara-based Human Rights Association (IHD) also complained of what it called a trend toward nationalism and intolerance in Turkey since it won a date last December to open EU entry talks later this year.  "Prime Minister 'zero tolerance' for torture and Deputy Prime Minister (Abdullah) Gul's claim that 'Turkey has done its homework to join the European Union' have not been realised," it said.

"Torture is still very widespread, the right to life still cannot be guaranteed and (freedom of) thought continues to be criminalised and punished," it said.

It recorded 1,040 reported cases of torture and maltreatment in 2004, police detention centers being the most common place for such practices.  This compared with 1,202 reported cases in 2003 and 876 cases in 2002.

Rights activists say the figures can be misleading because in the past victims of torture were more afraid to come forward or were less aware of the legal situation than is now the case.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, has urged Turkey to fully implement its human-rights reforms and to swiftly punish officials found guilty of rights violations.

The report complained of a trend toward intolerance since the EU set October for the opening of EU entry talks.

That EU decision marked a diplomatic victory for Turkey, but some Turks resent conditions that came with the date and believe their country is treated more harshly than other candidates.

As an example of increased intolerance, the IHD cited death threats and court cases opened against best-selling novelist Orhan Pamuk after he backed Armenian claims that their people suffered "genocide" at Ottoman Turkish hands in 1915-23.

In the area of freedom of expression, the IHD reported the opening of 467 court cases against people for expressing ideas deemed unlawful by state prosecutors in 2004, down from 1,706 cases the previou year.

Authorities also banned nine different publications -- including books, magazines and newspapers -- and halted 12 radio and television broadcasts. It did not say why they were banned."