Don’t use treaty to discriminate, report

76338671.jpgANKARA – A Council of Europe report has warned Turkey against using a “wrong interpretation” of the Lausanne Treaty as a pretext for refusing to implement minority rights, it has been learned.

The 30-page report, which has not yet been published, highlights that minority rights are human rights and cannot be denied under the argument of reciprocity, European officials told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review yesterday. Article 45 of the Lausanne Treaty stipulates that the rights conferred by the relevant provisions on the non-Muslim minorities of Turkey will be similarly conferred by Greece on the Muslim minority in its territory.

The report says Turkey and Greece refer to the “reciprocity” and interprets the 1923 treaty in negative terms, while failing to observe the rights of their citizens who are members of the minorities protected by Lausanne.

On Tuesday, the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE, adopted the report on “Freedom of religion and other human rights for non-Muslim minorities in Turkey and for the Muslim minority in Thrace (Eastern Greece).”

The committee acknowledged that the topic was emotionally very highly charged and called on both Turkey and Greece to treat all their citizens according to the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights rather than invoking “reciprocity.”

“The report is not about ignoring the Lausanne Treaty; it is a question of interpretation,” an official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Daily News. “The interpretation of the treaty is wrong. The Lausanne Treaty does not state that granting rights falls under the condition of reciprocity. It instead states that the rights which are for one minority are also for the other minority in another country, but they are not related to one another.”

In a draft resolution, the committee termed the recurrent invoking by Greece and Turkey of the reciprocity principle as a basis for refusing to implement rights guaranteed to the minorities covered in the Lausanne Treaty “anachronistic,” saying it could jeopardize each country’s national cohesion. It also invited the two neighboring states to treat all their citizens without discrimination.

Discussions in June

The official said the resolution would probably be discussed in June at PACE, adding that the document was not binding and that if the countries failed to obey it, then the assembly could return to the issue and draft a new report in order to see if Turkey and Greece would keep the commitment.

Greece does not recognize its minority population in Western Thrace as “Turkish,” labeling them “Muslims” instead. Turkey is still on the post-monitoring procedure of the Council of Europe, a human-rights watchdog whose reports are taken into consideration by the European Union.

The draft resolution keeps the definition of a ‘minority’ broad, saying that the diversity and existence of minority groups should be able to be expressed.

Article 10 of the resolution stipulates that generally speaking, the assembly fully shares the position of the Convention on Human Rights, according to which “freedom of ethnic self-identification is a major principle in which democratic pluralistic societies should be grounded and should be effectively applied to all minority groups, be they national, religious or linguistic,” and the expression of which must be consistent with national unity.

“This means the draft is not only considering the groups officially characterized as minorities under the Lausanne Treaty,” said the unnamed official. “It is much broader.” Greeks, Armenians and Jews are the three groups officially listed as minority populations in Turkey.

The resolution further urges Turkish authorities to recognize the “ecumenical” title of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, to find a mutually agreeable solution to the reopening of the Heybeliada Greek Orthodox seminary and to ensure that the Orthodox Assyrian monastery of Mor Gabriel, one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, is protected in its entirety and not deprived of its land holdings.