9 June 2000


Norwegian authorities take weak attitude towards human rights in Turkey

(NFFE/IFEX) - The following is an 8 June 2000 NFFE press release:

Norwegian authorities take weak attitude towards human rights in Turkey

The Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression (NFFE), The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Norwegian Council of Religious and Humanist Communities regret the fact that the Norwegian government and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg did not give higher priority to human rights issues during Turkish premier Bülent Ecevits recent visit to Norway. Public opinion is now under the impression that Norwegian authorities no longer find it necessary to openly criticize the Turks for their lack of respect for human rights.

Comprehensive and systematic human rights violations are still taking place in Turkey, as documented by both Turkish and international organisations. No less than 13 pro-Kurdish publications were recently banned in five Kurdish-dominated provinces in South-East Turkey, and on 1 June the daily "Yeni Gundem" was also banned.

On 28 March, Akin Birdal, former president of the Turkish Human Rights Association, was again imprisoned after being temporarily released for medical reasons. In May 1998, Birdal was attacked and nearly killed. He will now have to serve the remaining five and a half months of his sentence because in a speech during a peace festival in 1996, he spoke up for a peaceful solution to the situation in South-East Turkey and also used the term "the Kurdish people."

For the past three years the offices of the Turkish Human Rights Association in Diyarbakir have been closed by Turkish authorities. As far as torture and freedom of expression abuses are concerned, the most severe infringements take place in the Diyarbakir region and surrounding cities. This information on human rights abuses from the Turkish Human Rights Association is of essential value. The office was temporarily reopened on 19 April due to massive international pressure, but closed again on 12 May.

On 9 May, the Human Rights Commision of the Turkish Parliament issued a report documenting systematic, ongoing torture in Turkish prisons, in particular in the prisons in the Kurdish territories in South-East Turkey.

When Turkish writer Mehmed Uzun's books were confiscated in April this year, the NFFE and other FOE and human rights organizations sent letters of protest to Turkish as well as Norwegian authorities. In a reply to NFFE of 15 May, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Thorbjørn Jagland stated that "Norway has for some time carried out an active political dialogue with Turkish authorities. Human rights issues are a central part in this dialogue. The Norwegian Government looks upon the further integration of Turkey in a Euro-Atlantic cooperation focusing on common, democratic values as an essential task. Consequently, Norwegian authorities are interested in continuing this dialogue."

We, the undersigned organizations, cannot see that human rights and freedom of expression were focused on during premier Ecevit's visit in Norway. We should therefore like to discuss the situation with the political leaders in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have today requested a meeting.

Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression (NFFE)

Norwegian Helsinki Committee

Norwegian Council of Religious and Humanist Communities

Oslo, 8 June 2000


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Wergelandsveien 29
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