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Turkish government unveils blueprint to boost rights, freedoms

The Turkish government has issued a Human Rights Action Plan to boost freedoms, in a bid to harmonize the legislation with the European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence framework.

The Turkish government has issued a Human Rights Action Plan, in a step considered as a prerequisite for the opening of Chapter 23 of the EU accession process, which covers the judiciary and fundamental rights.

The action plan, which was published in the Official Gazette after its approval by the Justice Ministry, is set to harmonize Turkish legislation with the framework defined by European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) jurisprudence.

It contains 46 objectives under 14 headings, aimed at preventing ill-treatment and arbitrary detentions, resolving the legal and structural problems that cause lengthy trials, and limiting restrictions on freedom of assembly. The plan was prepared by the Justice Ministry’s Human Rights Department after a workshop organized with the participation of experts from the ECHR and the European Council.

“This action plan has been prepared with the objective of removing the problems that are at the origin of violations in ECHR rulings. It defines the necessary measures, actions and legal arrangements to be implemented according to a determined schedule,” the plan’s introduction said.

The plan comes at a time when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is under heavy fire for recent legal arrangements on the Internet, the judiciary and the national intelligence agency, which have been pushed amid corruption and graft allegations since December.

Critical violations

Although reluctant to open new chapters in the accession process, Brussels instead offered to hold a working group meeting with Ankara on Chapter 23, mirroring the methodology used for Chapter 22, which was delayed following last summer’s Gezi Park protests. The action plan focuses on critical violations regarding law enforcement, which were particularly seen during the Gezi protests. These violations include the harmonization of detention and arrest orders with European standards, as well as ensuring transparent internal investigations in the event of crimes committed by security personnel.

The plan also intends to enhance the rights of defendants, including during the interrogation process. It stresses that interrogation methods such as searches, asset seizures and wiretapping conform to ECHR standards. The plan also partially responds to one of the main calls from Brussels regarding freedom of assembly by implementing “alternative measures instead of bans” for unannounced demonstrations. It also envisages judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers being briefed and informed about European standards.

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