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The New Arab Staff

US lawmakers urge Blinken to pressure Turkey over human rights violations

Turkey has pledged to a two-year 'action plan' on human rights [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 March, 2021

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Nearly 200 members of Congress have petitioned the secretary of state for action over Turkey's 'democratic backsliding'.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have called for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure Turkey over "troubling" human rights violations as the Biden administration reformulates US foreign policy.

The letter adressed to Blinken by 170 members of Congress was sent on February 26 but not made public until Monday, a day before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan layed out a two-year plan for human rights reforms in the country.

Turkey remains a strategic partner in the region but the US must address the "gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey", the letter reads.

The government led by Erdogan has attempted "to weaken Turkey's judiciary, install political allies in key military and intelligence positions, crack down on free speech and free press, and wrongfully imprison political opponents, journalists and minorities", the lawmakers said.

Human rights issues have not received as much concern as strategic issues such as Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems, the letter added.

The Biden administration's relationship with Ankara must be conditioned on Erdogan's behaviour both abroad and at home, it said.

Turkey unveils 'action plan'

President Erdogan unveiled a new "human rights action plan" on Tuesday, pledging a series of reforms and the introduction of a new constitution.

The two-year plan will shore up the right to a free trial and freedom of expression, Erdogan told a press conference.

The plan will also aim to strengthen the justice system, the president said, ensuring that no one can be deprived of their freedom because of their thoughts.

Turkey has faced intense criticism in recent years over its jailing of critics of Erdogan, including journalists and politicians imprisoned on terror charges and scores accused of links to an exiled cleric who Ankara says led a 2016 coup attempt.

The new "action plan" will also seek to improve women's rights in Turkey, Erdogan said.

He added that Ankara has accelerated efforts to achieve much-desired visa-free access to the European Schengen Zone.

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