Concern about mass trial against Turkish unionists

OPEN LETTER to Turkish labour minister ÖMER DINCER


Open letter to the attention of His Excellency Ömer DINCER, Labour and Social Security Minister of Turkey

Brussels, June 2nd 2011

Honarable Labour and Social Security Minister of the Republic of Turkey,
Dear Mr Dincer,

we are adressing you on the eve of the opening the trial against 111 trade union members including TEKGIDA-IS President Mustafa Turkel, 4 national officers, twelve branch presidents, current and former heads of the DISK union, two former leaders of the public sector confederation KESK and other prominent union and social activists.

We would like to express our serious concern about this upcoming trial and explain why we are, hereby, calling on your government to unconditionally drop the charges against the accused officers.

For around one and a half year, the rise of a lively and brave trade union movement in Turkey has been attracting a lot of international attention and sympathy. The peaceful gathering of 250,000 workers on Taksim place in Istanbul on May, 1st 2010 was widely and positively recognized and interpreted by some as a landmark in the history of Turkish democratization. During the months before, the struggle of 12,000 dismissed TEKEL workers and their families for their social rights had moved the country. Little doubt should be about the high symbolic value of their struggle to Turkish union movement, but also to the possibilities of civil society to express their concerns and legitimate interests.

We, as Members of European Parliament, feel that democracy and the division of powers do heavily depend on the existence of an active and organized civil society. We believe that democracy depends on the interest and critical commitment of a maximum of citizens. In modern States, such as Turkey, independent trade unions are an important and unalienable and recognized part of civil society. With sad surprise we now had to learn that Ankara Public Prosecutor has filed criminal charges against 111 union officers, threatening them with prison terms of up to 5 years.

We are afraid that a mass trial would seriously harm the democratization process of the Republic of Turkey and criminalize citizens' legitimate protest, such as, in this case, the demonstration of TEKEL workers on April, 1st 2010 in Ankara. We would also like to point to harassment and violence that had to face demonstrators on the mentioned day by police forces.

The use of the courts to criminalize trade union action in this manner is a clear violation of international norms and standards, including Convention 87 of the ILO which clearly guarantees workers the right to freely conduct such actions.

For the outlined reasons, we call on your government to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against all the trade union officers and to assure to Turkish trade unions the right to conduct their activities free of violence and harassment. From our point of view, it is the duty of the State to protect and promote workers' rights instead of criminalizing trade union activity.

We are looking forward to your reaction and comments.

Yours sincerly,
Jürgen KLUTE, Member of European Parliament (Germany)
Bart STAES, Member of European Parliament (Belgium)
Eva-Britt SVENSSON, Member of European Parliament (Sweden)
Nikolaos CHOUNTIS, Member of European Parliament (Greece)
Willy MEYER PLEITE, Member of European Parliament (Spain)
Helmut SCHOLZ, Member of European Parliament (Germany)
Marie-Christine VERGIAT, Member of European Parliament (France)
Rui TAVARES, Member of European Parliament (Portugal)
Paul MURPHY, Member of European Parliament (Irland)