Fifty members of the British parliament have condemned what they said was a “sharp
reverse” in Turkey’s progress on human rights under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In a letter to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Tuesday, the parliamentarians
called on their government to join U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration in taking
a more vocal stance criticising Turkey.
Washington has increasingly called out the Turkish government’s failure to respect
fundamental rights and freedoms since Biden took office in January.
London’s criticism of Ankara has been much more muted in comparison, with government
officials rarely going on record to express their disapproval.
However, Turkey’s crackdown against the opposition could no longer be ignored, the
cross-party group of British lawmakers said.
The legal cases against Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of parliament from Turkey’s
pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and Human Rights Association
(İHD) co-chair Öztürk Türkdoğan demonstrate a “growing pattern which increasingly
calls into question whether Turkey actually shares our democratic values and attachment
to rule of law”, they said.
Gergerlioğlu was jailed in April after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity.
While Türkdoğan, the head of the country’s largest human rights group was arrested
in March. The prosecution of both men on terrorism charges is widely seen as politically
Britain has traditionally been one of Turkey’s closest European allies, a relationship
which has taken on added significance following Brexit.
In January 2017, the two countries signed a £100 million ($140.4 million) defence
deal to provide fighter jets for the Turkish air force, hailed at the time as a landmark
trade deal for Britain following its decision to leave the European Union.
Turkey is an "indispensable ally”, but London’s friendship should not be unconditional,
the parliamentarians said.
“The UK owes the people of Turkey a duty to speak up openly for a return to the path
of democracy and respect for human rights and pluralism,” they added.