Mogherini’s statement on Selahattin Demirtas

 

Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. –

Madam President,

The fate of Selahattin Demirtaş is an issue which, I believe, lies close to the hearts of many of us.

He has been for long years an interlocutor for many and a key figure in Turkey’s democratic debate. So today we are discussing not just the fate of a human being, which is probably the most important thing the Chamber can discuss, but also the state of Turkey’s democracy.

We are discussing the individual and collective rights of all Turkish citizens.

In the past two years, we have witnessed the detention of elected politicians, journalists and academics. We are well aware of the incredible challenge that Turkey faced, back in July 2016, with the attempted coup d’Etat but today the state of emergency is over and this should be the time to strengthen Turkey’s democracy. The independence of Turkey’s judiciary is being undermined. Fundamental rights such as the presumption of innocence are often ignored and violated.

On the one hand, the case of Mr Demirtaş reflects these wider trends and, on the other hand, this case is quite unique. Demirtaş is a Member of Parliament, a former presidential candidate, the Co-Chair of his party and a democratically elected leader. His case is about pluralism in Turkey and the right of every individual freely to take part in their country’s democratic life, and, for this reason too, we have followed his case since his detention more than two years ago. On the day of his detention, Commissioner Hahn and I described him as ‘our trusted and valued interlocutor’, and I believe many in this Chamber will share these views.

As you know, I raised this case again, in public and in private, during my last meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the High Level Political Dialogue in Ankara last month.

That, by the way, was a very fruitful, open and constructive meeting, and I’m very happy about that. This was just two days after the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which we are discussing today. The Court had ruled that Mr Demirtaş’ extended detention violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

As Commissioner Hahn and I said in Ankara, just a couple of weeks ago during this meeting, we expect the Turkish authorities, including the Turkish judiciary, to follow up in an appropriate manner on the recommendations by the Council of Europe and on     the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. We expect to see concrete progress in Turkey on the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including those of Mr Demirtaş.

The Court in this case has described his detention as an unjustified interference with the free expression of the Turkish people’s opinion and with his right to be elected and to sit in Parliament. The Court found, ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that his time in prison had the purpose to suffocate pluralism and Turkey’s democratic debate.

Let me remind everyone that the European Convention on Human Rights does not belong to the European Union nor to any of our Member States. It is the result of work done in the 1950s by the Council of Europe, and Turkey is a proud founding member of the Council of Europe. The European Convention on Human Rights is embedded in Turkey’s domestic law so this is a violation not of a recommendation from the European Union but of Turkey’s own laws, principles and values.

Mr Demirtaş’ legal status has changed now, following a recent ruling in another case by a Turkish court of appeal. Nonetheless, I believe that it is not only Turkey’s responsibility but also in Turkey’s interest to follow up immediately on rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

This is not just about Turkey’s status as a candidate country. I would like to be very clear on this. I believe it is about the kind of country the Turkish people and citizens want and deserve: a country with stronger institutions, a more inclusive country, and a country where all the people of Turkey can find their place and contribute to Turkish society’s collective progress.

What we would like to see, as the European Union, is a strong, free, secure, prosperous and democratic Turkey as a key neighbour and partner in our region, not just as a candidate country. It is in our shared interest to contribute to this, and all the Turkish people should know that they can count on the European Union to be at their side for a secure, democratic, free and prosperous Turkey.

 

Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. –

Mr President, I shall contribute to your efforts to manage time by simply thanking those of you that bothered enough to come into this Hemicycle and take the floor to support the work we have done and the positions we have taken during these years in defence of all those in Turkey who have worked and continue to work for human rights and democracy. It is not always an easy task, but we believe it is something we do not do against Turkey, but for Turkey and for all Turkish citizens that aspire to a different kind of life.

Many of us have considered and still consider Demirtaş an interlocutor, and I had the chance to express publicly in Ankara just a couple of weeks ago the expectation we have – Commissioner Hahn and I, in the name of the European Union – to see the decision of the court implemented by the Turkish authorities.

No clear position could have been expressed publicly at that moment, and I thank this Hemicycle for supporting that position. The work will continue.