Koenders calls on Turkey to follow the recommendations of the Council of Europe

Foreign minister Bert Koenders has called on Turkey to follow the recommendations made by the Council of Europe. The minister also shared his concerns about Turkish criticism of reports by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council. Mr Koenders made these points at a meeting of the Council’s Committee of Ministers in Cyprus on Friday.

‘It would be good if Turkey released the report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture,’ Mr Koenders said. This Committee, another of the Council’s advisory bodies, sent observers to Turkish prisons last year to investigate whether human rights standards were being upheld. The Turkish government has not yet given permission for the report to be made public. ‘The Council of Europe must be a place where we hold each other accountable for fulfilling our obligations towards each other,’ the minister added.

Addressing his counterparts on Friday, Mr Koenders praised the important work done by the Council of Europe and its advisory bodies in particular, and commended the Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights.

‘The Council of Europe is the obvious body to provide independent expertise,’ the minister said. ‘It’s crucial that member states respect and follow up on the Council’s recommendations’. Mr Koenders pointed out that this applies not only to Turkey, but also to others, like Poland. He also expressed his concerns about the position of LGBTI people in Russia and stressed the importance of protecting them.

The minister also spoke about the Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe and encouraged countries that are not yet party to it to sign on as soon as possible. The reason for this urgency was the WannaCry ransomware virus, which last week affected organisations and individuals all over the world. ‘Crime and terrorism are increasingly becoming cross-border problems, especially in the digital domain,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘The rapid spread of WannaCry ransomware made this painfully clear last weekend. Our priorities should be building users’ resilience, thwarting cyberattacks, and finding and prosecuting the perpetrators. This can only be done if international cooperation between investigative agencies is organised effectively.’

The Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe, which was adopted in 2001, lays down agreements on international criminal justice cooperation and on harmonising regulations on criminalisation and on the investigative and prosecutorial powers of the police and judicial authorities. Since 2001, 55 countries have ratified or acceded to the Convention, including countries in North America, Asia, Australia and Africa. Twelve more countries are currently in the process of acceding. ‘The Convention has gained global support and has considerable influence,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘A further increase in the number of countries joining will have a positive impact on tackling cybercrime globally.’ The Council of Europe offers countries guidance on compliance with the Convention on Cybercrime, and the Netherlands contributes to these efforts.