Warning for minority rights in EU 2016 Progress Report

European Commission released 2016 Progress Report, which includes severe criticisms against Turkey. Released on November 9, the Report is considered as the most negative report about Turkey so far.

In the 102-page-long report, the arbitrary and selective application of the provisions on national security and fight against terrorism, and the backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and rule of law are emphasized. It is also expressed that “high numbers of arrests of journalists as well as closure of numerous media outlets are of serious concern.”

The criticisms concerning the condition of minority groups in Turkey are another remarkable part of the report.

Here are the main statements on the minority groups in the report:

Law on combating discrimination

A fully comprehensive law on combating discrimination in accordance with European Convention on Human Rights is still needed; such a law should also explicitly cover sexual orientation. The current criminal code of Turkey “is incomplete concerning hate crime and is not fully in line with best practices at international level.”

“Non-discrimination is not sufficiently enforced either in law or in practice and the rights of minorities are not sufficiently upheld.”

Foundation elections

Hate speech and threats against minority groups are still of serious concern “and long delays in cases where religious representatives or their property were attacked amount to impunity. School textbooks need to be revised to delete remnants of discriminatory rhetoric. There is still no regulation on election procedures for non-Muslim foundations after the previous regulation was annulled in 2013. This continued to prevent minority foundations from electing board members.”

Property rights

“The decisions on restitution of properties of non-Muslim minority foundations taken in previous years were challenged by the Treasury through court cases. The scope of the current legal framework needs to be broadened notably to cover foundations currently managed by the state and properties of foundations transferred to third persons. There were concerns over the government’s decision in March on expropriations and the destruction of large parts of the Sur District in Diyarbakir. Court cases on property restitution continued, including on ownership of the land on which the Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel Monastery is built. Syriacs and Yazidis still faced difficulties to register property. Latin Catholic churches still have neither legal personality nor foundation status, making it impossible for them to register property or seek restitution.

“The Council of Europe Resolution 1625 (2008) regarding property rights on the islands of islands of Gökçeada (Imbros) and Bozcaada (Tenedos), needs to be fully implemented.”

University problem

“The Ecumenical Patriarchate received no indication from the authorities that it may use the ‘ecumenical’ title freely. Venice Commission recommendations on this issue are yet to be implemented. No steps were taken to open the Halki (Heybeliada) Greek Orthodox Seminary. There were reactions triggered by the controversial use of the Hagia Sophia, which is a museum situated within a listed UNESCO world heritage site, for marking religious celebrations. The Armenian Patriarchate’s proposal to open a university department for Armenian language and clergy has been pending for several years. Similar demands have been made by different Christian communities who sought to train clergy. Similar problems exist over the construction of places of worship.”

“The increased representation of smaller ethnic and faith minority groups in Parliament in the June 2015 elections, although still symbolic in numbers, was confirmed at the November 2015 elections. The positive steps of the previous education year regarding teacher recruitment and state subsidies for minority schools were not duly implemented in the reporting period. The second church in Istanbul has not been opened yet despite requests by the Syriac Orthodox community.”

For reading the full report, click here


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Fatih Gökhan Diler