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Turkey Urged To Abide By Covenants

August 19, 2000

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ After signing two international agreements on political and civil rights, Turkey must now abide by its obligations and take concrete steps to improve its human rights record, Kurdish and human rights groups said Saturday.

Turkey signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights this week. Ankara had rejected the agreements for 34 years, apparently worried about the implications for the country’s 12 million Kurds.

The covenants include the right for minorities to speak in their language _ a right still limited for Turkey’s Kurds. Signatories also vow to uphold the right of all people to self-determination, freedom of expression and the freedom from discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds.

``This is long-delayed step toward democratization,″ said Ali Riza Yurtsever, a senior official of the People’s Democracy Party, Turkey’s only legal pro-Kurdish party. ``But we are not sure if they will be applied or not.″

Both Yurtsever and the Human Rights Association warned that Turkey’s parliament, which has to ratify the agreements, may oppose sections of the covenants.

Although a ban on the Kurdish language was lifted in 1991, it is still illegal to speak Kurdish in official settings and scores of activists have been jailed for using the language. Publications and broadcasting in Kurdish are also banned.

``Turkey needs to rewrite the constitution and the entire legal system to bring them in line with the standards defined in international agreements,″ Nazmi Gur of the Human Rights Association told the English-language Turkish Daily News.

The signing is seen as another step by the Turkish government to improve its highly criticized human rights record in its drive to join the European Union.

The U.N. covenants were first adopted in 1966 and have been signed by more than 130 countries.

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