WASHINGTON – “Systematic State-sponsored torture in The Republic of Turkey should be brought to a halt before the Summit that is planned for Istanbul this Fall,” said Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) today at a Commission hearing entitled “The Road to the OSCE Istanbul Summit and Human Rights in the Republic of Turkey.”
“Testimony today has confirmed our worst fears,” said Smith. “For over a year-and-a-half, Commissioners and other Members of Congress tried to make clear that siting the Summit in Istanbul was an inappropriate reward for a participating State that practices thirty-seven different types of torture, as documented by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. And today’s depiction by Amnesty International of the electric shock torture of a twelve-year-old girl for stealing bread—in the Ankara Police Headquarters, in the capital of Turkey—confirms our worst fears that there is little guarantee of the basic human right of physical safety and due process guaranteed by one’s government.”
“Additionally,” said Smith, “it has become increasingly necessary for the international community to monitor and defend the defenders, those non-governmental organizations and people who speak out in defense of human rights despite constant threats and harassment from the Government of Turkey. Thus, sadly, the human rights situation in this most important U.S. ally has deteriorated.”
The hearing provided a timely review of U.S. policy regarding both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as preparations get underway for the OSCE Summit Meeting scheduled to convene in Istanbul later this year and the status of human rights in Turkey in light of Ankara’s OSCE human dimension commitments. Unfortunately, all of the witnesses were less than sanguine regarding Turkey’s human rights progress.
Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Marc Grossman, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Harold H. Koh, Amnesty International USA’s Stephen Rickard, The Center for Victims of Torture’s Executive Director Douglas A. Johnson, and Lawyers Committee for Human Rights’ Neil Hicks all presented testimony and answered questions from Commissioners.