United Nations’ Committee calls on Turkey to reopen Theological School of Halki
3/18/2009 – The United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has called on Turkey to reopen the Greek Orthodox Theological Seminary on the island of Halki, to return confiscated properties and to promptly execute all judgments by the European Court of Human Rights relating to it.
“The Committee invited Turkey to promote adequate representation of the various ethnic groups in the Parliament and other elected bodies, as well as their participation in public bodies. It recommended that research be conducted with a view to effectively assessing and evaluating the incidence of racial discrimination in Turkey, with particular focus on discrimination based on national or ethnic origin, and that Turkey take targeted measures to eliminate such discrimination,” a press release by the Committee in Geneva said on Tuesday.
The Committee noted its concern “at the particularly serious situation of the Greek minority” and called upon Turkey “to redress such discrimination and to urgently take the necessary measures to reopen the Greek Orthodox theological seminary in the island of Heybeliada (Halki), to return confiscated properties and to promptly execute all relevant judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in that respect.”
Pointing out that no country was entirely free from racial discrimination, the Committee also urged Turkey “to investigate why there had been no complaints of discrimination and recommended that it verify that the lack of such complaints was not the result of lack of effective remedies, victims’ lack of awareness of their rights, fear of reprisals, or lack of confidence in the police and judicial authorities, among others,” a CERD press release added.
The Committee also “regretted the absence of a definition of racial discrimination in domestic law, which might impede the adequate application of relevant legislation. It was noted that some groups, such as the Roma and the Kurds, faced a more difficult socio-economic situation than the rest of the population.
The Committee was concerned that the application of restrictive criteria to determine the existence of ethnic groups (by following criteria established in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne), official recognition of some and refusal to recognize others, might give rise to differing treatment for various ethnic and other groups which might, in turn, lead to de facto discrimination.
It was further concerned by allegations of persisting hostile attitudes on the part of the general public, including attacks and threats, towards Roma, Kurds and persons belonging to non- Muslim minorities. Another concern was that Turkey maintained the geographical limitation to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, which reduced the protection, offered to refugees from non-European States and might subject them to discrimination.
In that connection, the Committee was also concerned at reports on deportation and refoulement (repatriation to danger zone) of refugees recognized under UNHCR’s mandate, as well as of persons registered with UNHCR as asylum-seekers.
A remaining concern was that there were inadequate possibilities for children belonging to ethnic groups to learn their mother tongue,” it also said.