Update: 13.06.2018

The Federal Council must suspend the free trade negotiations

Thirteen NGOs and two political parties are calling for the Federal Council to suspend the current free trade negotiations with Turkey. Negotiations should only resume when the Turkish government has released all its political prisoners, when the media and NGOs can again work without any restrictions, and when the aggression in Syria violating international law has been terminated.

A free trade agreement has existed between EFTA countries and Turkey since 1991. The Federal Council is currently reviewing this agreement; parliament will address the topic during its summer session at the earliest.

The human rights situations in Turkey continues to deteriorate. In its 20 March 2018 report, the UN High Commission for Human Rights stated that 22 emergency decrees have been implemented since the state of emergency was declared, which prevent parliamentary control of government activities and the possibility of legal recourse before the constitutional court. At least 152,000 state officials have been dismissed. Additionally, 159,506 people have been arrested under the emergency decrees as of the end of 2017. In Southeast Turkey, which is mainly inhabited by Kurds, massive violence has been used against the civilian population including ongoing human rights violations.

The civil war in Syria has escalated since Turkish forces started attacks on people living in the Syrian district of Afrin on 20 January 2018. When the attacks started, Afrin was home to an estimated 200,000 internally displaced persons. This part of the civilian population is particularly vulnerable to the attacks that have destroyed civilian infrastructure and threaten to destabilise the entire region. Leading human rights experts such as Walter Kälin, professor emeritus for constitutional and international law, and Anne Peters, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law Heidelberg, believe that the Turkish offensive was not authorised by the UN Security Council and that it was not done to prevent an imminent attack and therefore breaches international law.

The Swiss Federal Constitution calls for Switzerland to help prevent poverty and distress all over the world, to uphold human rights, to ensure peaceful coexistence and to safeguard the natural environment. As part of the agenda for sustainable development 2030, Switzerland has committed to improving political coherence in favour of sustainable development. Last summer, the NGO Platform Human Rights created a discussion paper called “Wo bleibt die Kohärenz? Menschenrechte und Schweizer Aussenpolitik". In the paper, the working group calls for a coherent foreign policy, focusing on the implementation of human rights.

The organisations who signed the letter are asking the Federal Council to suspend negotiations with Turkey and the EFTA states until all persons who have been arrested or laid off for political reasons have been freed or rehired, respectively. In addition, all politically motivated legal proceedings must stop until all media outlets and NGOs, especially the ones representing the Turkish opposition and the Kurdish minority, can work freely. Finally, the aggression in Syria that violated international law must stop.

The following organisations and parties have signed this appeal: ACAT-Schweiz, Alliance Sud, Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz Kolumbien, Christlicher Friedensdienst, FIAN Schweiz, Women for Peace Switzerland, PeaceWomen Across the Globe, Society for Threatened Peoples, the Swiss Green Party, humanrights.ch, Pubic Eye, Swiss Helsinki Committee for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights, the Swiss Social Democratic Party, Solifonds, and the Swiss section of the International Commission of Jurists.

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