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Walls of glass.

IN OCTOBER 1991, IN THE run up to the Turkish elections, Suleyman Demirel, now prime minister, pledged that if elected he would institute dramatic change in the country with regard to human rights abuses. Attempting to deflect international criticism over torture in Turkey, Demirel promised: "A new Turkey -- the walls of all police stations will be made of glass."

The new Turkish coalition government, led by Demirel, has made serious and specific undertakings on the question of human rights, and in particular torture, but, despite election promises, like previous Turkish governments it has done nothing to stop the practice. A draft package of tentative reforms, which, in any case, did not meet the requirements of international law on the protection of detainees from ill treatment and torture, was blocked by President Ozal on the grounds that it might be prejudicial to national security, and returned it to parliament where it was amended to exclude political detainees from its terms for the next two years. It has still not become law.

Turkey has made plain its aspirations to increase its role in international affairs. The latest move in this direction was the announcement that it will push to host the Olympic Games in Istanbul in the year 2000. However, while reports of human rights abuses involving men, women and children being tortured in Turkish police stations, continue to appear in the international media, the chances of Turkey's aspirations being realised seem slim.

Deaths in custody apparently resulting from torture have continued, according to the international human rights organisation Amnesty International. At least ten have occurred this year.

"There has been too much talk and too little action on the part of the Turkish authorities," Amnesty International says in a newly published report. "The new government made serious promises on the issue of human rights, and in particular torture, yet it has done nothing to stop the practice."

Amnesty says that political killings in Turkey are reported virtually daily and the security forces appear to be implicated in many of them. In the south-east of the country, security forces appear to operate with almost complete impunity: during 1992, at least 100 unarmed civilians have been killed by security forces firing on peaceful demonstrations or randomly firing on residential areas in "retaliation" for attacks by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).

More than 50 villagers and local politicians were killed during 1991 in circumstances which implicated security forces. In the last 12 months, the pattern of killings has changed: more than 100 Kurdish men, including journalists, local politicians, members of the People's Labour Party (HEP) and others, have been shot dead in "mysterious murders". The killings have frequently been attributed to a local organisation called Hizbullah. However, many of the victims have previously been threatened, detained or tortured by police and there is growing evidence to suggest the security forces collude in such killings and might actually instigate them.

If Turkey is serious in its bid to raise its international profile, the issue of human rights is one which must be addressed without delay. It is time for the Turkish government to face up to its responsibilities under international law and bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice. It is high time the promises were put into practice. Too many people have suffered already -- the government must act now to stop others becoming victims of similar gross violations.
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Title Annotation:Leaders; human rights violation in Turkey
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Words:565
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