18 October 2012
The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its consideration of the initial report of Turkey on how this country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Erdogan Iscan, Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, introduced the report and said that the ambitious reform process ensured progress in the fight against torture, reforming the prison system, affirming freedom of expression and freedom of religion, functioning of the judiciary and anti-corruption measures. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 and had a policy of zero-tolerance to torture; prompt, effective, transparent and independent investigations of allegations of torture and ill-treatment were a priority. Parliament approved the third judicial reform package in July 2012 aiming to improve the effectiveness of the judiciary, speed up the judicial process and tackle the length of detention periods. The Law on Protecting Women and Family Members from Violence entered into force in March 2012 and was the first law in Turkey which defined and tackled domestic violence and extended the scope of persons protected by the law.
Committee Experts welcomed the law establishing the Turkish national human rights institution and noted that it did not fully comply with the Paris Principles. A concern was raised about the compliance of the Anti-Terrorism Act with the provisions of the Covenant and its alleged use to prosecute individuals, especially minors. The law on domestic violence seemed to be a good piece of legislation and Experts wondered whether it had a sufficient budget to back it up and move it from theory to practice. The Experts also raised and inquired about a number of other issues, including the recognition of national minorities and affirmative action in their favour, children with disabilities and their access to mainstream education, overcrowding in prisons, honour killings and measures to increase the participation of women in political life.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Iscan thanked the Committee and said that Turkey would continue to use the experience of this dialogue in its further reform efforts. Turkey remained committed to further upgrade standards of democracy and the rule of law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Zonke Zanele Majodina, Committee Chairperson, in preliminary closing observations, noted the positive developments in Turkey, in particular alignment of the domestic legislation with international norms and standards, Constitutional amendments and the judicial reform package. The Committee reiterated concerns about the anti-discrimination legislation and the extent of its coverage to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; extremely broad and vague counter-terrorism laws which led to the disproportionate use of anti-terrorism measures; freedom of expression which was severely curtailed; and the situation of minorities and their rights.
The delegation of Turkey included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Family and Social Policies.
The next public meeting of the Human Rights Committee will be at 3 p.m. this afternoon when it will start its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Germany (CCPR/C/DEU/6).
The initial report of Turkey can be read here: (CCPR/C/TUR/1).
Presentation of the Report
ERDOGAN ISCAN, Director-General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said that Turkey was pursuing a comprehensive reform process at the national level and a series of legal reforms had been carried out in a short period of time, including Constitutional amendments and a complete overhaul of basic law. The ambitious reform process ensured progress in the fight against torture, reforming the prison system, affirming freedom of expression and freedom of religion, functioning of the judiciary and anti-corruption measures. In 2004 Turkey had abolished the death penalty and became party to all United Nations and Council of Europe protocols in this area. The ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment complemented the policy of zero-tolerance to torture in the country. The latest Constitutional amendments of 2010 protected vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and the disabled against social discrimination. Turkey pursued close and constructive cooperation with the international human rights mechanisms; it had extended a standing invitation to the Special Procedures and had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which had entered into force in December 2003. The third judicial reform package had been approved by Parliament in July 2012 and contained a series of measures to improve the effectiveness of the judiciary and specifically speed up the judicial process and tackle issues of length of proceedings and long detention periods. In June 2012, Parliament had adopted the law creating the office of the Ombudsman and the law establishing the Human Rights Institution of Turkey, while efforts to improve freedom of expression of the media were ongoing. Turkey had taken significant steps to protect and enhance the civil and political rights of its citizens and was working with determination to identify and find remedies to the shortcoming and challenges.
Turning to the replies to the list of issues provided by the Committee, Mr. Iscan said that according to the Constitution, international human rights instruments prevailed in case of conflict with the provisions of the national legislation. The basic principle of non-discrimination was regulated by the Constitution, which considered a criminal offence any discrimination on the grounds of language, race, colour, gender, disability, political opinion, philosophical belief, sect or similar reasons. The 2012 Constitutional amendment had introduced for the first time the concept of positive discrimination in favour of groups requiring social protection and represented a significant improvement to strengthening the protection of their constitutional rights. Turkey had adopted a special law on terror crimes to protect its citizens from vicious terrorist acts, and its principles were in accordance with the international human rights conventions. The principles and standards incorporated in the Anti-Terror Law enabled the authorities to effectively protect the public and ensure a swift judicial process. Prompt, effective, transparent and independent investigations of allegations of torture and ill-treatment were a priority in Turkey. Such acts were taken seriously and diligently by the judiciary in all stages of investigations and trial processes. The Law on Protecting Women and Family Members from Violence had entered into force in March 2012 and this was the first law in Turkey which defined and tackled domestic violence and extended the scope of persons protected by the law. Turkey currently hosted over 100,000 refugees from Syria and stood ready to provide further information as requested by the Committee.
Questions by Experts
CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, Committee Rapporteur for the report of Turkey, acknowledged the great efforts of Turkey in providing shelter to the refugees from Syria and the input received by many non-governmental organizations from Turkey. Concerning the issue of declarations and reservations entered by Turkey during the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Mr. Flinterman said that States were called upon to constantly assess those reservations with a view of removing or narrowing them and making them more specific. Could the delegation clarify the thrust of the declarations made by Turkey when signing the Covenant, especially as they had been repeated by Turkey during the signature of the Optional Protocol two years later? Could the delegation appraise the Committee of the status of the reservation entered by Turkey on the occasion of the ratification of the Optional Protocol relating to Article 5(a)?
Turning to the relation between public international law and domestic law, and the provisions of Article 19 of the Constitution which provided the supremacy of international law in case of conflict with the law of the land, Mr. Flinterman asked for additional information about the court decisions in which references had been made to the provisions of the Covenant. What was, more precisely, the scope of Article 19? Lawyers and judges would only invoke or apply international human rights provisions when they had thorough knowledge about those provisions and that was why the training of judges and lawyers was crucial in this regard. Turkey seemed to focus exclusively on the European Convention of Human Rights, but the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights should also be a part of the curricula in the training of lawyers and judges. What procedures were available at the national level to facilitate the implementation of the views of the Committee? Concerning the Turkish national human rights institution, the Rapporteur asked for further information about the new body, its structure and mandate, and its compliance with the Paris Principles.
Another Expert asked the delegation to provide information about more specific measures on positive discrimination and what it meant in practice. The report was silent on the participation of women in political life; Turkey had been encouraged by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women during its 2010 review to increase public participation of women and the Expert wished to hear more about what was being done in this regard. Turning to the situation of children with disabilities, the Expert asked whether it was possible for those children to participate in mainstream education and attend public schools; if so what support was provided to teachers in those schools? What affirmative action was Turkey taking in favour of minorities?
An Expert said that the reply of Turkey on item 7 concerning the remedies available to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons for violation of their rights was inadequate and disappointing, and asked the delegation to provide more information on the issue. International instruments to which Turkey was a party requested the State Party to include sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination. Could the delegation comment on the difficulty homosexual men experienced with regard to military service and the process of proving that they suffered from psycho-sexual disorder? Turning to the Anti-Trafficking Action Plan, the Expert asked about human and financial resources dedicated to its implementation, which indicators were used to measure the progress made and how it ensured compliance with human rights standards.
How were the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Law compatible with the provisions of the Covenant and what procedural guarantees were in place for individuals charged with the crime of terrorism? Could the delegation comment on the allegations that Turkey was using this law to prosecute individuals in the country?
Further on the reservations, Experts asked Turkey to explain its reservation related to the applicability of the provisions of the Covenant to States it had diplomatic relations with. Taking up the issue of education of girls, the Committee noted that overall schooling rates of girls were still lower than for boys and asked whether the prohibition of wearing a headscarf was an obstacle?
Response by Delegation
Turkey had made two declarations and one reservation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in line with the Turkish general position, the delegation said. With regard to the declaration regarding the national territory, the Government was concerned about possible allegations for actions of Turkish armed and police forces present in territories beyond national boundaries. The position on minorities was known; under the Constitution, the word and concept minority encompassed only groups of persons defined and recognized as such on the basis of bilateral or multilateral instruments to which Turkey was a party. In this context, minority rights in Turkey were regulated in accordance to the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923. Turkey took note of the recommendations to reassess its reservation and declaration to the Optional Protocol.
The Constitution empowered international documents which prevailed in case of conflict with domestic law; there were several examples of this Article in practice. However, no law had been annulled due to conflict with international law. The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors was an independent body and it had recently issued a statement that referral to international law by judges and lawyers would be taken into account when appointing judges; this was an incentive to the legal profession to study international law and international case law. The Government was aware of its obligations and responsibilities in relation to replacing obligatory military service with the civil one, and was working on the action plan to execute the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and the Committee.
The delegation understood there were concerns among Committee Experts concerning the compliance with the Paris Principles of its national human rights institution; concerns existed in the domestic sphere as well. Turkey would take into account the concerns expressed by the Committee and by civil society in Turkey and reassess the position and the legislation. The law passed by Parliament ensured a free-standing and independent institution, with its own staffing and funding; the independence of the body was ensured by the law and special attention would be given to ensure pluralist presence on the board of the many stakeholders. Once the national human rights institution was fully compliant with the Paris Principles, there would be no obstacles to merge within it the function of the national monitoring mechanism for torture and ill treatment.
Turkey intended to have in place comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and a draft law had already been prepared and would be referred to Parliament soon; this law would provide a comprehensive definition of discrimination and would also provide remedy and guarantee of non-recurrence. Article 122 of the Criminal Code made discrimination against persons on the grounds of language, race, colour, gender, disability, political opinion, philosophical belief, sect or similar reasons a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.
The headscarf issue was a challenging issue for Turkey; there was no legislation to govern its use, but there was practice, case law and the provisions of the European Court for Human Rights. The idea was to settle this issue on the basis of societal consensus and now the Government considered the issue to be solved. Several studies had been conducted by non-governmental organizations and research institutes into the exclusion of women from schools or workplaces because of wearing the headscarf; the Government had formulated a study with the Turkish Institute of Statistics which would be completed at 2014 when the seventh periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was due. A lot of work was being done to increase the participation of women in political decision-making positions, such as in Parliament, city councils or mayors. The numbers were rising, but rising slowly and studies were being conducted now to ascertain why women did not to want to participate.
The existing policy in Turkey was to provide education to children with disabilities in mainstream schools to the extent possible and where beneficial and feasible. Where it was not possible, the child would be admitted to special education institutions. In 2007 a law had been passed which required that all public buildings, including schools, be accessible to persons with disabilities by the end of 2012. With regard to education, 98 per cent of all children in Turkey were provided with primary education, which in practice meant universal coverage including girls; 69 per cent of children had access to secondary level education. There was no universally agreed definition of minorities and nations decided which groups were recognized as minorities; Turkey recognized non-Muslims as minorities and no other group was recognized as such. It was essential that the rights of persons belonging to divergent groups were recognized. Turkey was a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and remained committed to constantly adjust the system and recognize and protect the rights of divergent groups.
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons was not grounded in law in Turkey, although some general measures might be interpreted as not being in their favour. Being a member of a particular group did not provide exemption from respecting the rule of law and they were subjected to being investigated or prosecuted like any other citizen of Turkey. Turkey was a sizeable country in a geo-politically fragile region which meant that the application of the Anti-Terror Law would have wide-resonating implications; it was to be noted though that the application of this law was being monitored by national and international human rights mechanisms. There was no information about prosecution of children under this law, charges and penalties.
Turkey did not maintain diplomatic relations with Armenia and the Republic of Cyprus. Temporary special measures aimed at increasing the access of girls to education and women to employment, lowering taxes for women, strengthening the training of public officials in gender equality, and combating violence against women. In June 2012, some 150,000 women who lost their husbands were entitled to cash transfers in an attempt to alleviate the poverty of female headed households. The delegation corrected the statement made this morning concerning the annulment of laws, and confirmed that laws or parts of laws in conflict with international provisions had been annulled, usually though a legal amendment process aiming to align the national legal system with the international and European legislation.
Follow-up Questions and Response
In the follow-up questions, a Committee Expert noted that there was an internationally agreed working definition of national minorities and inquired about the reasons why Turkey did not sign the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Another Expert took up the issue of the declaration of Turkey concerning the national territory, wondered whether it was the best course of action and called upon Turkey to revisit the issue. Were there any intentions to widen the number of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the legislation and include sexual orientation to better protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons? What were procedural guarantees under the Anti-Terror Law?
Responding, the delegation said that there were domestic remedies and, failing this, international remedies were open to all, including those investigated under the Anti-Terror Law. First steps towards inclusion of sexual orientation as a basis to prohibit discrimination had already been taken, but it must be kept in mind that social cohesion and support was needed in this regard. Turkey did not consider that the working definition of national minority was universally agreed.
Questions by Experts
Committee Experts were concerned about pre-trial detention and abuses by the police, and asked what concrete steps were being taken to address those issues; in which situation could judicial control be used instead of detention; and how was the shortage of medical personnel in prison facilities addressed? Despite the good legislation on the rights of prisoners and detainees, there were reports that the law was often not applied the way it was written, in particular with regard to access to lawyers; what measures were envisaged to improve the implementation of this law and how was this right guaranteed for those accused of acts of terrorism? The delegation was asked to explain how the 2012 deadline to make all public buildings accessible to persons with disabilities would be met?
Following the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, were there any plans to set up a national prevention mechanism? With regard to enforced disappearances, the Committee asked how the victims were identified and what remedies were available. The law on domestic violence seemed to be a good piece of legislation; did it have a sufficient budget to back it up and move it from theory to practice? Some reports indicated that honour killings were on the rise, despite the measures undertaken to curb them; could the delegation provide information on the number of cases, perpetrators, investigations, prosecutions and penalties? The Committee Experts further asked what constituted an illegal association, what the criteria for outlawing an organization were and which laws governed that decision.
Response by Delegation
In order to address the overcrowding in prisons, Turkey would open an additional 191 facilities in the near future; it had also initiated the process of probation for convicts with good behaviour, and undertaken transfers to open-type facilities and other measures. Juvenile detention facilities were being improved too and their personnel received extensive training and benefitted from other capacity building measures. Access to information by detainees was not limited by the law. Over the past 10 years a lot of work had been done in the area of the rights of persons with disabilities, with improvements made in the legislation, education of children with disabilities, accessibility of physical spaces, buildings and housing, physical rehabilitation and disability payments.
Turning to questions related to the rights of detainees, the delegation said that the right to contact a lawyer was an absolute right; it could be restricted up to 24 hours upon the request of the prosecutor and the decision of a judge, and in this case, the suspect’s statement would not be taken. All those claiming to be deprived of their legally prescribed rights might claim compensation in court if acquitted at the end of the trial or if a decision was made not to prosecute.
Honour killings were the most severe form and reflection of domestic violence, which was the most common and violent form of violence against women. The 2005 amendment to the Criminal Code ensured increased penalties for acts of honour and tradition killings. Turkey had begun to make many of the required changes to implement the new law on domestic violence; the number of women shelters had considerably grown and would be expanded further in the regions, and the number of trials and convictions for domestic violence and honour killings had been on the rise. Turkey was among the first countries to sign the new Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and ratify it without any reservation, and would bring its domestic laws in alignment with its provisions. This was evidence of the commitment of Turkey to the issue, including aligning its laws with international legislation and upgrading its human rights standards.
The criteria to outlaw an organization and categorize it as a terror organization were: resorting to violence, inciting the community to violence, inciting the community to discrimination and use of firearms.
Follow-up Questions and Response
The Committee asked follow-up questions in relation to the planned increase of the capacity of prison facilities, which indicated that the number of prisoners was expected to almost double, from 126,000 today to 245,000 by 2017; measures taken to ensure that changes in laws also led to changes in practice and how it was monitored; enforced disappearances, particularly in relation to Turkey’s declaration on the territorial application of the provisions of the Covenant; and the action taken to implement the recommendations by the Committee against Torture concerning the cases of enforced disappearances in Northern Cyprus. The Experts reiterated concern about the safeguards and procedural guarantees in the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law, such as the restriction of access to a lawyer for the first 24 hours when the risk of torture and ill-treatment was the highest.
In response, the delegation said Turkey was not increasing the number of prisoners but the capacity of prisons as a measure to reduce overcrowding; this was also because of the ongoing judicial reforms and the expected shortening of the judicial procedure would require greater prison capacity soon. Half of the 250,000 law enforcement officers in country had already undergone training and the Government was committed to fully training its law enforcement officers and making improvements in the eyes of international mechanisms such as the Committee against Torture and credible international non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The issue of enforced disappearances was especially acute in the 1990s; today there was a project within the Ministry of Interior and the delegation was ready to provide additional information at a later stage. The Second National Action Plan on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings would start in 2013 and had a budget of close to two million Euro. The ratification process of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was underway, together with the passing of the law on trafficking in human beings.
Committee Experts welcomed the adoption of the law on the protection of property of non-Muslim communities and asked about the scope of that law and whether it guaranteed restitution of property previously held; whether it was limited to non-religious communities recognized by the Lausanne Treaty; and which non-Muslim religious groups and communities could establish a foundation or association under the Civil Code. What were the plans for the follow up on this dialogue and how would civil society be included?
In a further series of questions, the Committee welcomed the law on foreigners, now before Parliament, which would bring Turkish legislation in line with the provisions of the Covenant, and hoped for its speedy adoption. The geographical limitations of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, namely that it applied to refugees from Europe, were an issue of concern and Experts hoped it would not limit the application of the principle of non-refoulement regardless of the origin of refugees and asylum seekers. The way in which Turkey dealt with the influx for refugees from Syria, which was a significant challenge, was impressive; the Experts asked for assurances that borders to Syria would not be closed.
A growing number of States exempted from obligatory military service those citizens who held genuine religion or belief and replaced it with civil service; Turkey had in place an Action Plan in this regard and Experts asked about the time line for its implementation and what it meant for conscientious objectors who had already been convicted or were in prison. How was it that courts, regardless of the incentives to know and apply international law, were still imprisoning people for conscientious objection, when it was clearly in contravention with the European Convention on Human Rights?
The Committee urged Turkey to speed up the process of recognition of other ethnic and religious group, such as minorities, and so ensure they enjoyed the rights of minorities such as the right to instruction in their own language, the right to worship and others. Experts noted that Turkey was among the States with the highest number of convictions for freedom of expression and asked for clarification concerning journalists held in prison for exercising this right.
Response by Delegation
There was a draft law in Parliament regarding the Law Enforcement Monitoring Committee, which would investigate and punish law enforcement officers involved in criminal acts or unlawful treatment. This Committee would be headed by the Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, and would include independent members such as lawyers appointed by the Bar Association, human rights activists, academicians and others. Turkey was aware of the requirement to involve non-governmental organizations in the preparation of the report; they had been consulted to a degree and a number of interested parties had contributed to the initial report. The growing interest of civil society would help improve public awareness on the provisions of the Covenant and would represent added value to the efforts of Turkey to implement its provisions. Turkey recognized that more effort was needed on her part to better involve non-governmental organizations in the future.
The draft law on refugees and foreigners was before Parliament, and it was hoped that it would be enacted soon. The draft law had been prepared in full consultation with international bodies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which was satisfied with the compliance with international protection norms. As a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Turkey did not recognize non-Europeans as refugees, but it did not fail to extend them protection. Turkey maintained the geographical limitation of the 1951 Convention because of its geo-political position and the concern about the influx of refugees on its borders, but it did not prevent it from providing expensive protection to refugees and asylum seekers.
Turkey maintained and would continue to maintain an open border policy with regard to Syrian refugees and provide them with protection. At the moment there were 16 camps with over 100,000 refugees and new camps were being built; building costs of a camp housing 10,000 refugees ran up to $ 10 million and required $ 2.5 million per month to run. The financial and other burden on Turkey was significant. Many asylum applications were received at the borders, especially at Istanbul airport and the average time to conclude the application there was two to three days. After the conclusion of the application, there was a 72 hour time-frame for filing an objection by the person in question; at the end of this period, asylum was either accepted or if refused, the applicant was returned to the port of origin. A total of 30,000 asylum applications had been accepted and individuals were hosted in asylum centres run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees until their transfer to third countries. Turkey would continue to respect the basic principle of non-refoulement, reiterated its commitment to the provisions of international humanitarian law and keeping the borders to Syria open and invited the international community to assist with burden sharing in receiving and assisting the refugees.
The issue of non-Muslim minorities and their property was very complex and reached back in history to the time of the Ottoman Empire. The 1936 Declaration on the property of non-Muslim minorities was the basic document on which the relationship was built. In order to restore their right to property, several amendments of the Law on Foundations had been undertaken in 2008 and in 2011, which had extended the scope of the law. Following those amendments, more than 100 properties had been returned to their owners, the non-Muslim foundations, and a number of other applications were currently under review. The Government was strongly committed to improving the system and guaranteeing the rights of the non-Muslim minorities and their foundations. There were no restrictions on foreign clergy to work in the country and Turkey would continue to respect the right of its citizens irrespective of their ethnic, religious or linguistics origins. Not recognizing a group as a minority did not mean depriving that group of their rights.
Turkey would continue to consider the issue of conscientious objectors and needed more time to achieve political consensus between stakeholders and in the context of fragile situation surrounding its borders. Freedom of expression continued to be an important topic in Turkey and the Government was working with others to further align the law and practice with the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. There were misrepresentations about some journalists or academicians who were in prison because of exercising their right to freedom of expression; this was a distorted picture since those individuals were imprisoned for contravening the rule of law and not for being journalists. Turkey was ready to provide the Committee with the information regarding charges against those individuals.
Follow-up Questions and Answers
Committee Experts asked a number of follow-up questions, including the extent to which other religious groups in Turkey could use the Civil Code to organize their foundations; protective measures for the victims envisaged in the Action Plan on Trafficking in Human Beings; the responsibility for leading confidential inquiries in case of anonymous letters with accusation against an individual; and how many times one could be imprisoned for refusing military service.
Responding, the delegation said that in order to protect and maintain the principle of secularism, foundations based on religion might not be established in Turkey and this applied to all religions. With regard to victims of human trafficking, the Action Plan included determination of an institutional framework; strengthening psychological and social services, information and consultation services; returning and re-adaptation of victims; and involving civil society in the protection process. To protect the personal rights of gay people, the practice was not to have them in military service; it meant that they were considered to be inappropriate for the service, similar to persons with disabilities, to protect them from dangers during the military service. Hate crimes were a rising issue in Turkey, against all vulnerable groups, including gay people, and the Government was working on strengthening legislation in this regard.
ERDOGAN ISCAN, Director-General. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, in his closing remarks said that Turkey would continue to use the experience of this dialogue in its further reform efforts. Turkey remained committed to further upgrade its standards of democracy and rule of law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, Committee Chairperson, in her preliminary concluding observations, welcomed the submission of the initial report of Turkey which the Committee had been waiting for since 2004. It was a constructive and interactive dialogue in which the Committee appreciated the positive developments in Turkey to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights guaranteed under the Covenant, in particular the alignment of the national legal system with international norms and standards, the Constitutional amendments, the Judicial Reform Package and others. Issues of concern included declarations and reservations to the Covenant and the Optional Protocol; the law setting up the national human rights institution and its compliance with the Paris Principles, particularly its independence; and anti-discrimination legislation and the extent of its coverage to members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Counter-terrorism laws were extremely broad and vague and had led to the disproportionate use of anti-terrorism measures; while the Committee had noted the reduction in instances of torture, it reiterated concern about brutality committed; freedom of expression that was severely curtailed with the prosecution of journalists and others; recognition of minorities and minority rights; and geographic limitations to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
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