Assyrian Awareness: Organizations Responses

Sweden on Assyrian Human Rights

Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2001 at 11:53 am CT


Thank you for your e-mail of February 19.

Mr. Prime Minister of Sweden has forwarded your letter to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

We are all satisfied after the trial towards father Yusuf Akbulut's acquittal.

I hereby forwarded the answers to questions which have been raised in the Swedish Parliament where the opinion of Swedish Government is presented.

Kind regards

Martin Rahm
cc. attached (see copies below)


MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Minister for Foreign Affairs

To the Riksdag
Reply to question

Question 2000/01:283 from Nalin Pekgul on human rights in Turkey

Nalin Pekgul has asked me whether the Swedish Government intends to act in connection with the prosecution of Yusuf Akbulut.

In my reply of 23 November to two similar questions, I mentioned that the prosecution of Akbulut had been raised with the Turkish Government in connection with my visit to Turkey on 17 November.

We are monitoring this question closely though our Embassy in Ankara, and the Swedish Consulate-General in Istanbul will be present at the trial in Diyarbakir on 21 December.

In the view of the Swedish Government the prosecution of Syrian priest Yusuf Akbulut is a violation of his freedom of opinion and expression and, as Nalin Pekgul states in his question, it shows that much work remains for the Turkish Government before the Copenhagen political criteria are met.

In the accession partnership proposal presented on 8 November the EU Commission proposes a number of priorities in the area of human rights and democracy and regarding the situation of minority peoples. The Swedish Government will closely monitor the implementation of these priorities by the Turkish Government.

Stockholm, 6 December 2000
Anna Lindh


MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Minister for Foreign Affairs

To the Riksdag
Reply to questions

Question 2000/01:228 from Murad Artin on human rights in Turkey and 2000/01:229 from Yilmaz Kerimo on Assyrians/Syrians in Turkey

Murad Artin has asked me what I intend to do regarding Turkey’s compliance with human rights obligations, e.g., by persuading Turkey to withdraw the prosecution against Yusuf Akbulut. Yilmaz Kerimo wonders whether within the EU and/or in contacts with the Turkish Government I intend to draw attention to the situation of the Assyrian/Syrian people in connection with the prosecution of Yusuf Akbulut. I intend to answer both questions in this reply.

In the view of the Swedish Government the prosecution of Syrian priest Yusuf Akbulut is a violation of his freedom of opinion and expression. We have pointed this out to the Turkish Government. During my visit to Turkey on 17 November the prosecution of Akbulut was one of the matters I raised with the Turkish Government.

In the accession partnership proposal presented on 8 November, the EU Commission proposes a number of priorities in the area of human rights and democracy. The Swedish Government will work for the adoption of these priorities by the Turkish Government.

The following proposals by the Commission are of particular interest in this context:

  • to remove legal obstacles which prevent Turkish citizens using their mother tongue in television and radio broadcasts,
  • to improve the situation in south-eastern Turkey in order to increase economic, social and cultural opportunities for all citizens,
  • to guarantee that all individuals can exercise their human rights without discrimination,
  • to abolish the state of emergency in south-eastern Turkey,
  • to abolish laws that prevent the exercise of cultural rights by all citizens irrespective of origin, including in the area of education.

Assyrians, Syrians and other minorities belong to those groups which have most to gain if the priorities of the accession partnership are implemented. The Government will continue – within the EU, via bilateral contacts and through direct support to human rights organisations – to work for forceful measures on the part of Turkey to improve the position of minorities in accordance with international commitments.

Stockholm, 23 November 2000
Anna Lindh


Utrikesdepartementet
Utrikesministern

Answer to question

Question 2000/01:215 from Lars Ohly on human rights in Turkey

Madam/Mr Speaker,

Lars Ohly has asked me what the Government intends to do during the Swedish EU Presidency to induce Turkey to respect the rights of minorities. He has also asked me what the Government intends to do towards bringing torture and inhuman conditions in Turkey to an end.

I agree that the situation with respect to human rights in Turkey is far from satisfactory. Both the Swedish Government and the EU have raised the issue with Turkey on numerous occasions. At the same time it is my belief that Turkey’s status as a Candidate State creates a good foundation on which to build. In order for Turkey to enter the accession process it must first deal with the problems which are highlighted in, inter alia, the European Commission’s progress report. There is at present an intensive debate in Turkey concerning how the political Copenhagen criteria are to be met.

During its Presidency the Swedish Government represents the whole of the EU in its relations with Turkey. Both the EU and Sweden will continue to have an open and honest dialogue with the Turkish Government on various issues, and in particular on human rights. In its capacity as Presidency, Sweden will continue to urge Turkey to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria.

Respect for and the protection of people who belong to minority groups are crucial and are included in the Copenhagen criteria, the EU Commission’s progress report and the accession partnership proposal. The proposal sets out clearly the priorities the Government of Turkey should make in its work to comply with the Copenhagen criteria.

The abolition of the death penalty, improved prison conditions, media broadcasts in languages other than Turkish, improvements in the fields of freedom of expression, non-discrimination, ratification of UN conventions and respect for cultural rights, including education, are some of the priorities contained in the partnership proposal. The Turkish Government will shortly present its national programme for harmonisation with the acquis and the steps that have been taken to fulfil the political criteria for accession. This will provide an indication of how the Turkish Government intends to continue with its reform process.

The political dialogue between the EU and Turkey also provides an opportunity to raise issues concerning the rights of people who belong to national, ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities.

The Turkish Government has expressed its willingness to deal with the issues of torture and inhumane treatment. Sweden, the EU, the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe can contribute towards a change in the attitudes underlying serious human rights violations. Sweden, through development assistance provided via Sida, has supported Turkish non-governmental organisations in their struggle against the use torture. The Swedish Government also supports, via Sida, cooperation between the Raoul Wallenberg Institute and Bilgi University in Istanbul aimed at creating a centre for the study of international law and human rights.


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