President Erdogan announces Turkey's new human rights action plan that will, among other issues, deal with freedom of expression, gender-based violence, the right to a fair trial and personal data as the country aims for closer ties with the EU.

President Erdogan at Bestepe Culture Centre in Ankara, March 2, 2021.
President Erdogan at Bestepe Culture Centre in Ankara, March 2, 2021. (Presidential Press Office Handout / Reuters)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged that Turkey will strengthen the right to a fair trial as well as freedoms of expression and organisation in the country as part of his government's new Human Rights Action Plan.

Speaking at the Human Rights Action Plan presentation meeting in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan announced that the plan which was promised in recent months as part of a series of legal reforms would improve the judiciary system, adding that no one can be deprived of their freedom because of their thoughts. 

“We are launching comprehensive work to amend political parties and election legislation to strengthen democratic participation, " Erdogan said. 

Turkey's new human rights action plan is expected to be implemented in two years, he said.

The human rights plan comes weeks after the president said "the future of Turkey lies with the EU" during a video conference with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union Commission. 

On Tuesday, he reiterated his views on bringing the two together. "Turkey will accelerate efforts on EU visa liberation process," he said.

READ MORE: Erdogan: Turkey initiates new economic and judicial reform era 

Trials and due process

As part of a nine-point plan, Erdogan outlined measures to improve the judicial system in areas, including nationalisation of land, the trial of minors and steps to ensure a speedy trial.

The plan also includes measures to bolster the people's right to a fair trial, Erdogan said.

An independent committee to monitor penal institutions will be set up with participants from the bar, non-governmental organisations as well as universities. 

The president's outlined measures included the simplification of applications for lawsuits, cutting down on associated bureaucratic fees and a reduction in time administrative procedures take from a maximum of 60 days to 30 days. 

A Human Rights Compensation Commission will cover the costs of litigants during lengthy trials, he added.

He said the government was also reviewing prosecution of crimes related to the press and the internet.

Gender-based violence 

The president vowed that the country will wipe out such crimes "until not a single woman has crimes of violence committed against her". He said the plan will lean on support from NGOs and other sectors of society to eliminate violence against women.

Special investigative units will be expanded across the country to look into crimes against women, he added.

The new plan will also increase psychosocial support as well as information services for women, children, people with disabilities and older adults. 

Part of the new human rights missive is to protect vulnerable sectors of society, especially keep children away from risky digital exposure and cyberbullying.

Freedom of expression

"No one can be deprived of freedom for their thoughts," Erdogan said, adding the plan aims to increase freedom of expression and organisation, issues that the European Union has repeatedly brought up discussing Turkey's membership to the bloc.

Erdogan said professional activities of journalists will be facilitated with an aim to increase freedom of expression and press, he added.

"Improving freedom of expression, organisation and religion...is the goal we have so far worked the hardest on," he told ministers and other government officials.

"We will not water every flower we see," Erdogan added. "While watering a flower with its head bent means justice, watering a thorn means cruelty."

READ MORE: Turkey's Erdogan calls for 'immediate reforms' for more effective UN

Timing of reforms

TRT World's diplomatic correspondent Andrew Hopkins explained that the reform package has a revision concerning the electoral legislation of political parties, paving the way to recent discussions on new constitution.

The government's announcement of the plan was not subjected to pressure from Western countries but it was much needed, Hopkins said.

READ MORE: Erdogan urges parties to pitch in on new constitution for Turkey

Source: TRTWorld and agencies