Council of Europe assembly votes to monitor Turkey again


Legislators representing Europe's top human rights body voted on Tuesday in favour of re-opening monitoring procedures in Turkey in a move that reflects its strong concern over the functioning of democratic institutions in the country.

The decision in the Strasbourg-based Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was approved on a vote of 113-45 after a nearly three-hour debate.

The assembly's monitoring committee raised concerns over constitutional amendments that were approved this month in a national referendum amid a state of emergency. Turkey rapporteur Marianne Mikko said the amendments, which significantly expand the powers of the presidency, "do not comply with our fundamental and common understanding of democracy."

Mikko stressed that the monitoring process is not "punishment" but a bid to strengthen dialogue with Turkey.

The committee was critical of the atmosphere ahead of the referendum and of emergency decrees after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. It pointed to the detention of parliamentarians and journalists and the sweeping dismissals of civil servants allegedly linked to the coup.

Mikko also expressed disappointment that Turkish authorities were considering the re-introduction of the death penalty.

Turkey, a founding member of the Council of Europe, had been under post-monitoring dialogue since 2004.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim slammed Tuesday's decision as politically motivated and accused the parliamentary assembly of acting under what he called the influence of "Islamophobia, racism and anti-Turkish sentiment" sweeping Europe.

He said his government would decide on the steps to be taken against the decision.

Asked if the decision would affect Turkey's troubled relations with the European Union, Yildirim said ties already had reached "the most negative level possible."

"Our request and expectation from the EU is clear. It has to overcome its confusion and review its vision for its own future. Will it continue on its path as a Christian union or will it make an overture and take Turkey into its midst?" Yildirim said.

Amnesty International welcomed the re-introduction of full monitoring of the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey. The watchdog's Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner, said it "sends a clear and powerful message that Turkey must end its crackdown on human rights."    (AP)

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