March 19, 2015

Parallel Council of Europe

Günal Kurşun

“Nils Muiznieks concerned about arrest of journalists in Turkey,” “Nils Muiznieks concerned with Turkey's ‘chilling message' to journalists and dissenting voices,” “Muiznieks declares: Arrest of journalists and media workers [Dec. 14] serious setback for media freedom in country',” “Muiznieks warns security package may increase human rights violations in Turkey,” “Muiznieks urges Turkey to reconsider security bill” and so on. These are some of the headlines that I've collected from the press during the last two months in Turkey about Nils Muiznieks.

Who is Nils Muiznieks? Can he be an outside enemy of Turkey? Does he want to divide or weaken Turkey? Or is he involved in the Hizmet movement and so was supported into a higher position in the bureaucracy, hiding his true identity. Is he part of the parallel structure that has a branch in the Council of Europe's human rights bodies? To borrow a joke about supporters of the Hizmet movement commonly made by members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has he ever eaten maklübe, a traditional dish attributed to Hizmet that is often served during movement meetings?

Muiznieks is a Latvian human rights activist and political scientist. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Previously, he was the director of the Latvian Human Rights Center. He has been serving as the Council of Europe (CoE) commissioner for human rights since 2012. He has visited Turkey several times in his role as the commissioner. He has reported on excessive force by the police, criticized the police's handling of demonstrations for creating serious human rights problems, said Turkish police violence must not go unpunished, and expressed his concerns about the arrest of journalists in Turkey. Recently, he warned that a government-sponsored security package was scheduled to be discussed in Parliament last week runs the risk of increasing human rights violations in Turkey and has urged Parliament to reconsider the proposal in light of comparable international standards.

Muiznieks is doing his job. He is not only doing his job for Turkey, but also for all CoE countries as well. He calls on Azerbaijan to stop reprisals against human rights defenders, he calls on Armenia to intensify its efforts to ensure gender equality and protect human rights in the justice system, he condemns serious human rights violations in Crimea, he declares that the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has a dire impact on human rights, he warns Spain that legislation and practice on immigration and asylum must adhere to human rights standards, he declares that France's persistent discrimination endangers human rights, he says that a “reset” is needed in Europe's approach to Syrian refugees, he calls on all CoE countries to create inclusive policies for Roma, he invites countries to concentrate more on children's rights and he calls on European governments to make gender equality and the fulfillment of women's rights a reality. In my opinion, he is one of the treasures of the CoE and one of the best human rights heroes I've seen in recent years.

What he is saying on Turkey must be seriously taken into consideration. He is definitely neither an enemy of Turkey nor any other country. I don't think he is part of the parallel structure in Turkey as AKP members constantly label their critics, but let's assume for a minute that he is. Why then do we not look at what he is saying?

Muiznieks says, “I urge the authorities to stop the crackdown on press freedom and to act in compliance with the rule of law and human rights.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 19 March 2015, Thursday