HL Deb 11 February 2004 vol 656 cc156-7WA
Lord Avebury

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to the findings of the report by the Kurdish Human Rights Project, Turkey's shame: sexual violence without redress—the plight of Kurdish Women; and whether, in the light of the report, they consider that Turkey has fulfilled the conditions for admission to the European Union's accession process. [HL1091]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The Kurdish Human Rights Project's report raises issues of serious concern. Prime Minister Erdogan has called for a zero tolerance approach to torture, and many of the instances of sexual abuse alleged in this report would probably fall into that category. I am sure they will be investigated with the same care which the Turkish Government have shown by their other measures to combat impunity. Those include the abolition of incommunicado detention, and reforms facilitating the prosecution of those charged with torture—which have led recently to a number of high profile cases.

A decision on whether Turkey has met the criteria for opening accession negotiations will be taken by the European Council in December, on the basis of an objective and thorough report by the Commission. The UK is determined to help Turkey to pass this test, including by practical assistance to the Government's efforts to promote and protect human rights. Our programme of recent bilateral assistance to Turkey has included a project to build the capacity of non-governmental organisations campaigning for the rights of women in the south-eastern region.