U.S. sanctions of Turkey on table over human rights abuses

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three prominent U.S. Senators put forward legislation opening the door for sanctions on Turkish officials if Ankara fails to address the gross violations of human rights in the country. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced the reintroduction of a human rights bill regarding Turkey, Markey’s official website wrote last week.

Following the 2016 coup attempt, Turkish authorities detained tens of thousands of civilians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled the country under state of emergency powers for the next two years, with little -if any- oversight.

The end of the state of emergency in 2018 did not result in an increase in fundamental freedoms in Turkey, the government having codified several emergency provisions into law.

This bill orders the US Secretary of State to support Turkish civil society organizations working to secure the release of political and religious prisoners.

The bill also establishes “a Statement of Policy for the United States to support democracy, stability, and prosperity in Turkey and to condemn the Turkish government’s assault on freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and association.”

The bill also states that the Turkish government must “take measures to dramatically improve the dire environment for journalists and those supporting the journalism profession,” as well as “cease its ongoing crackdown on free speech on the internet, including by repealing or amending laws that enable the government to block a website or delete material from the website,” according to the Senate.

Sen. Markey stressed the tone of criticism of the Turkish regime, pointing out that the White House will no longer be tolerant with Erdogan.

Sen. Wyden stated that the U.S. cannot stand by idly towards the systematic violations of fundamental freedoms in Turkey.

According to observers, the passage of this legislation is highly likely due to the desire by many in Washington to push back against Erdogan’s authoritarianism after years of previous U.S. administrations that tended to appease Ankara at nearly any cost.