HL Deb 03 December 1998 vol 595 cc596-8

3.11 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their attitude to the continued detention of Leyla Zana and other DEP members of the Turkish parliament in the light of decisions of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights that the proceedings leading up to their detention were in breach of the European convention.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, as I have indicated to the House on previous occasions, we regard the prosecution of democratically elected politicians for the non-violent expression of their views as wrong. In the case of Ms Zana and the other former Democracy Party (DEP) members of the Turkish parliament, we support the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in November 1997 that the original detention of the MPs was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We welcome the Turkish Government's acknowledgement of the court's judgment and the payment of compensation awarded to the defendants. We understand that a number of other aspects of the case of the former DEP MPs are still before the court, and we continue to monitor all developments closely.

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, I remind her that Leyla Zana's sentence has been extended for no reason other than that she wrote a letter on her opinion of what was happening to her in jail. Can we not remind the Turkish government, if they really believe in human rights, that they must release elected members of parliament if Turkey ever hopes to become part of the European Union?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the issue of human rights and civil liberties in Turkey is one which Her Majesty's Government and our colleagues in the EU are pursuing with the Turkish government as part of their application. What has happened to Ms Zana is extremely regrettable. I have taken note of the points which the noble Lord has made. In my initial Answer, I hope that I made the Government's position very clear on the issue of detaining MPs for the non-violent expression of their beliefs.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, does the noble Baroness have any information as to whether or not Mr. Murat Bozlak and more than 250 leading members of the HADEP party, who were recently arrested, have been released or charged?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, we have been extremely concerned about the continuing reports of the raids on the HADEP offices and the detention of its officials. Our ambassador in Turkey has raised with the Prime Minister's office in Turkey as recently as 24th November the reports of 3,000 HADEP members and officials being detained. I hope it is clear that we strongly condemn the systematic attacks on a legal and democratic party. We are extremely concerned about the news of the detention of Murat Bozlak. We continue to reinforce to the Turks that they will be judged internationally by their treatment of legal and democratic parties.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, does the Minister agree with the United States' view that the European Union's failure to put Turkey on the same basis as the other 11 aspirant countries for EC membership was a mistake?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I do not suppose that the noble Lord will be surprised to learn that, no, Her Majesty's Government do not agree with the United States view on that. The Government believe that the action which was taken in relation to Turkey was the right action. We were able to go forward at Cardiff in a very constructive way. The Government, both bilaterally and through the EU, have offered Turkey considerable help on progressing its application to join the EU.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, does the Minister agree that conditions for joining the European Community which apply to Turkey are exactly the same as those which apply to all other applicants to the European Union?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I can confirm that that is the position. The conditions are the same for all applicants.

Lord Rea

My Lords, would it not be better for the European Union to present its case to Turkey more in terms of carrots than sticks; in other words, to offer conditional advantages to Turkey if only it accelerates its improvement in relation to human rights?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I urge my noble friend Lord Rea to read the statements coming from the Cardiff European Council, which gave us a good basis on which to take forward relations with Turkey. The Council endorsed the European strategy for Turkey; agreed annual reports on Turkey's progress towards a readiness for EU membership; and noted the Commission's intention to bring forward new proposals for funding.

There has been good progress on the European strategy. It aims to develop relations with Turkey across the board as well as building on the customs union. The Commission made a very useful first visit to Ankara in September to discuss the details of that strategy. Therefore, I believe that the policy is one of carrots. There may be a few sticks but there are many carrots too.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, now that the Minister has had time to think again, does she know whether the Government believe that any third countries have extra-territorial criminal jurisdiction over Turkey?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I do not know whether any countries have extra-territorial jurisdiction over Turkey. If the noble Lord would like me to research that interesting question, I shall of course do so and write to him.

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