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Turkish HDP Party

Volume 776: debated on Wednesday 9 November 2016

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking following the detention on 4 November of Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, the co-chairs of the Turkish HDP party.

My Lords, we continue to follow developments in Turkey closely and underline the importance of the rule of law and protection of freedom of expression. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary raised these issues during his visit to Turkey on 25 and 27 September, as have America and the Minister for Europe with Turkey’s Minister for Europe, Ömer Çelik, most recently in a phone call on 7 November. The European Union issued a statement on 8 November.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I represent the Council of Europe on the Venice Commission, which has called for the restoration of parliamentary inviolability of MPs. Far too many members of the middle class are now being locked up, and the Turkish Government have overstepped the line—in so far as there is a line—between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. It is quite a long time since the coup. Will the Minister, in co-operation with other friendly embassies in Ankara, make arrangements for the European Union Ministries and the British Government to be represented, as appropriate, at all the court hearings held in this regard, and for regular reports to be send back to the chanceries of Europe?

My Lords, my noble friend makes important points and is quite right in what he says. My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe has emphasised these points on human rights, freedom of the press and the rule of law in his conversations. We work with other like-minded embassies to monitor particularly the highest-profile cases. We will look carefully at what the noble Lord has said.

My Lords, is there any suggestion that the independence of the judiciary is compromised in this matter, or that the process is not being conducted in accordance with Turkey’s national legislation? Is HDP’s affiliation in conflict with the EU and US designated list?

The noble Viscount’s point about the judiciary has been made very plain in the many bilaterals that are taking place with the Turkish Government. We urge the HDP to sever any links with PKK and renounce violence and, more importantly, urge that all parties in Turkey return to the peace process.

My Lords, during the referendum campaign the current Foreign Secretary promised that Turkey was about to join the European Union and gain free movement. Is that now the official view of the Foreign Office, or is it now switching gear, as one hopes it might, to consider whether there will be Kurdish refugees coming from Turkey to join the substantial Kurdish population in London, and that we need to co-operate with our European partners in preparation for that?

My Lords, the position of the Foreign Office has not changed, so the UK remains committed to driving reform, embedding stability and addressing shared challenges, such as security and migration in Turkey. I underline the fact that our bilateral relations with Turkey are very good.

My Lords, I declare an interest in that Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the HDP who has been imprisoned, is a political friend. He is not a terrorist sympathiser; he is an elected representative of his people. While I understand Turkey’s sensitivities about terrorism, does the Minister agree that the President is using the coup, which we wholeheartedly condemn, to purge liberal and secular opponents, and to attack the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law?

The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, makes important points. They are foremost in the conversations between Her Majesty’s Government and the Turkish Government.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that this is part of a wider purge in removing checks and balances to the authoritarian rule of the President, and reversing much of the Kemalist secular tradition? Does this not mean that the prospect, however dim, of Turkey joining the European Union must be put back even further, particularly because, even after Brexit, Turkey is losing one of its major advocates for its entry to the European Union?

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, as usual, makes some very valid points. On the European aspect of his question, the annual enlargement package—the annual report on those countries wishing access to the European Union—was published earlier today. We welcome the publication of this communication and we will carefully study the detail and recommendations of the Commission’s report in the coming days.