YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Turkish and Armenian human rights organizations called on Friday for a speedy implementation of the agreements to normalize relations between their countries welcomed around the world.
The Yerevan-based Civil Society Institute and several Turkish non-governmental groups made the appeal in a joint statement issued during the annual congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) held in the Armenian capital.
The statement urges Armenia’s and Turkey’s leading political groups to take “all the necessary steps” to accelerate the implementation of the Turkish-Armenian protocols signed in October. “Progress in this direction and the process of democratic transformation in Turkey would create a favorable environment for addressing the painful issue of the Armenian Genocide,” it says.
“We want to open the doors locked by the official parties,” Yavuz Onen of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey said, presenting the statement at a news conference.
Yusuf Alatas, a Turkish human rights lawyer who also signed the statement, assured Armenian journalists that most ordinary Turks want improved relations with Armenia.
The statement emphasizes the importance of human rights protection in Turkey and the South Caucasus, saying that would foster “peace initiatives, reconciliation and good-neighborly relations” among the peoples of the region. It also demands the abolition of all restrictions on free speech and, in particular, the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code dealing with “insults to the Turkish nation.”
Turkish authorities have used the clause to prosecute prominent writers, journalists and other public figures that have publicly referred to the Armenian Genocide.
The human rights groups also urged Ankara and Yerevan to sign up to an international treaty that set up a permanent tribunal empowered to punish crimes against humanity. They said joining the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is important for “establishing a lasting peace between Armenia and Turkey and preventing mutual animosity in the future.”
Below is the complete text of the statement:
We strongly believe that the protection of human rights throughout Turkey and the South Caucasus is key in the process of peace-building, reconciliation and good neighborly relations between all countries in the region, in order to ensure the safety, wellbeing and dignity of people across borders.
We call on both countries and societies in Armenia and Turkey to join their efforts and to create the necessary environment and processes to compensate for any negative consequences of human rights abuses committed in the past, including discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion etc, and to adhere to the standards of human rights protection as defined by international instruments.
As an essential component to ensure respect for human rights throughout the region, we call for freedom of expression in all countries, and for the abolishment of any laws and practices that prevent free speech, including those imposing constraints on the Armenian-Turkish dialogue, such as Article 301 of the Criminal Code of Turkey.
We urge the political parties of the government and of the opposition in Turkey and Armenia to fulfill their duties to take every necessary step to normalize relations between the two countries and societies. This includes the imminent need to implement the bilateral Protocols on the normalization of diplomatic relations and the opening of mutual borders. Progress in this direction and the process of democratic transformation in Turkey will create a favorable environment for addressing the painful issue of the Armenian Genocide.
We denounce all forms of hostility fed by militaristic ambitions and structures among nations in the region.
To ensure sustainable peace between Armenia and Turkey and the prevention of mutual hostility in the future, we call on the two governments to ratify and implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
With the aim of building bridges between the two societies, we call on both countries to implement inclusive policies and to abolish exclusive approaches in every sphere of life.
We call on the governments and civil societies of both countries to promote equal and just treatment in every sphere of life, including media, education, administration, legal practices, and public life.