Speech delivered by Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen
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Madam President, Honourable Members of the [European] Parliament,
In the current challenging times we are living through, protecting and upholding universal values, in particular human rights, is more important than ever.
On 25 April, Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court issued a deeply regrettable verdict in the case of Osman Kavala and seven other defendants. The verdict passed by the Istanbul Criminal Court totally ignores the findings of the European Court of Human Rights decision of December 2019 and sends a chilling warning about the shrinking space for civil society in Turkey.
As a consequence, the Council of Europe started an infringement procedure that is still ongoing, and the High Representative issued a statement following the verdict calling, once again, for Mr Kavala’s release. This Court verdict and the trial, flawed with many irregularities, are further worrying signs of Turkey’s further backsliding in the area of fundamental rights.
The heavy politicisation of this trial is deeply troubling. It exemplifies, once again, the systematic lack of independence of the Turkish judiciary. The Council has repeatedly stated that the targeting of human rights defenders runs counter to Turkey’s obligation to respect democracy and the rule of law.
This tragic outcome is not only a domestic Turkish issue. This is about Turkey’s international obligations and about the core values of the European Union, which Turkey aspires to join.
We continuously bring up the issue of the rule of law and human rights in conversations with Turkish officials at all levels and will continue to do so. It is a cornerstone of EU-Turkey relations.
Turkey needs to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of fundamental rights. As a long-standing member of the Council of Europe, it must implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, as legal obligations. Turkey is no exception.
So, we will continue to strongly raise the issue of rule of law and human rights in our dialogue with Turkey.