HRW Director: Erdoğan should face consequences for his human-rights record

While Erdoğan has completely disregarded the binding judgments of the ECtHR, the glacial pace of the infringement procedure has meant that Turkey’s defiant behaviour has yet to result in any actual consequences, such as losing voting rights at PACE.

The HRW director for Europe and Central Asia, Hugh Williamson, has called on the European Union and its member states to put human rights issues at the center of their engagement with Turkey, especially the case of Osman Kavala and four others who face life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protests.

Williamson said in an article that the EU should not ignore the “deteriorating human rights situation” in Turkey, where the government has cracked down on dissent, media freedom, and civil society. He also criticized the EU for failing to take a clear stance on the ongoing trial of Kavala and his co-defendants, who are accused of attempting to overthrow the government by organizing the peaceful protests that swept across Turkey in 2013.

“The EU should make clear that Turkey’s human rights record is a key factor in its relations with the bloc, and that it expects concrete steps from Ankara to improve it,” Williamson said. “The EU should also publicly and privately urge Turkey to drop the baseless charges against Kavala and the others, and to release them immediately and unconditionally.”

Williamson’s statement came ahead of the EU-Turkey summit scheduled for November 25, 2023, where the leaders of the two sides are expected to discuss issues such as migration, trade, security, and regional cooperation. Williamson said that the summit should not be a “missed opportunity” for the EU to raise its concerns about human rights in Turkey, and to press for meaningful reforms.

“The EU has a responsibility to stand up for the rights of people in Turkey, who have faced increasing repression and injustice in recent years,” Williamson said. “The EU should not trade away human rights for other interests, but rather use its leverage to support positive change in Turkey.”