Jeffries, Cheney Cross Partisan Divide Over Turkish Human Rights Abuses

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U.S. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) teamed up this week to introduce legislation to promote human rights in Turkey.

The Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act of 2021 is bipartisan legislation introduced in both the Senate and the House that would assert that the government of Turkey must uphold the rule of law by taking steps to end arbitrary killings and torture, improve freedom of the press, permit free expression on social media and in person, promote a fair and independent judicial system, protect lawyers and judges and uphold human rights. 

U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will introduce the legislation in the upper chamber.

Human rights abuses intensified in Turkey after a 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Since then, the government cracked down on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to silence journalists, political opponents, dissidents, civil society activists and minorities throughout Turkish society, both within and outside of its borders.

U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

“The United States cannot allow human rights abuses to go unanswered, especially from a NATO ally,” said Jeffries. “We must stand with the Turkish people and demand that President Erdoğan’s government stop the torture and killings, allow for freedom of the press, permit free expression and promote an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law.”

Since 2016, The Government of Turkey has dismissed or suspended more than 60,000 police and military personnel, 125,000 civil servants, one-third of the judiciary, arrested or imprisoned more than 90,000 citizens and closed more than 1,500 nongovernmental organizations on sham charges.

“For too long the Erdogan regime has sought to silence dissent, thought, and expression in Turkey by imprisoning opposition and suppressing human rights,” said Cheney. “The Erdogan regime must be held accountable for these abuses. I am proud to sponsor this legislation to stand for a free press and denounce the Turkish government for repressing freedom within their country.”

Markey, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, said President Erdogan’s free pass from the Trump White House to commit abuses has officially expired.

“I am pleased that Representatives Jeffries and Cheney have introduced a House companion to the Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act to call on President Biden to use all diplomatic tools to signal that the United States will stand up for journalists, activists, and civil society leaders, and will stand up in opposition to Turkish officials who direct or carry out systematic human rights abuses,” said Markey.

Specifically, the legislation, among other things, directs the Secretary of State to provide assistance to civil society organizations in Turkey that work to secure the release of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Turkey.

Additionally, it calls on the Biden Administration to impose sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act concerning officials of the Turkish government found responsible for the detention of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, politically motivated detention of journalists, restricting freedom of expression through social media and other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

The legislation also calls on the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to direct U.S. executive directors of key international financial institutions to oppose any loans, grants, policies or strategies determined to be enabling the Government of Turkey to violate the human rights of its citizens.

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