Crispin Blunt MP and Human Rights Watch have criticised the Government for ignoring the recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to include Turkey in the Foreign Office’s Human Rights Priority List.
Crispin Blunt chaired the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the previous Parliament, which in March 2017 published its report into “The UK’s Relations with Turkey.” The report recommended that “the FCO designate Turkey as a Human Rights Priority Country in its next Human Rights and Democracy Report”.
The Government published its annual Human Rights and Democracy report on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess, in which it omitted Turkey from its list of Human Rights Priority Countries. Criteria for consideration for inclusion in the list are 1) the human rights situation in the country 2) the country’s human rights trajectory, and 3) the UK’s ability to influence change.
The Government’s response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s report has been published today, in which it said that it would “continue to monitor the human rights situation in Turkey”.
Crispin Blunt said:
“During our inquiry we appreciated the challenge of developing an effective strategy to improve Turkey’s Human Rights situation and the careful balance that needed to be struck between public and private diplomacy. However, we did believe that the FCO’s Human Rights Priority List was an appropriate way for the Government to make a serious public signal about Turkey’s human rights situation.
“Any reasonable assessment of Turkey under the criteria for the Human Rights Priority List would consider the country as eligible: the human rights situation has reached a nadir, the trajectory over the last year has been profoundly negative, and the UK is particularly well placed to influence change. I am very disappointed that the Government has chosen to ignore the Committee’s recommendation and I fear that by omitting Turkey the Government is making a mockery of its own system.
“We saw first-hand the excellent work done by the Minister, the Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan, our Ambassador, HE Richard Moore, and other officials within the Foreign Office in advancing the UK’s interests and promoting our values in difficult circumstances. But there has been a serious error of judgement in omitting Turkey from the Human Rights Priority List.”
Human Rights Watch said:
“After last year’s coup attempt in Turkey, the human rights situation has significantly worsened, with more than 100,000 public sector employees dismissed, tens of thousands of people arbitrarily arrested, hundreds of journalists detained, and hundreds of media outlets and NGOs shut down. The Turkish authorities have also carried out enforced disappearances and there are credible allegations of torture in police custody. Against this backdrop, it is extraordinary that Turkey is not regarded as a priority country in the FCO’s annual report on human rights.”
Crispin Blunt MP was Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee from 2015-2017
Foreign Office report: “Human Rights and Democracy Report 2016”
Foreign Affairs Committee report: “The UK’s relations with Turkey”
Government’s response to the Foreign Affairs Committee report: