Council of Europe assembly wants to monitor Turkey again

President of the European Council Donald Tusk, right, is greeted by the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ahead of their joint press conference on the EU guidelines for Brexit talks, outside the Premier's office Castille, in Valletta, Malta, Friday, March 31, 2017. The guidelines that Tusk is putting to EU members make it clear that withdrawal from the bloc comes ahead of any new relationship with Britain even though the rough outlines such a relationship may partially overlap. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud)

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Legislators representing Europe’s top human rights body on Tuesday voted in favor of re-opening monitoring procedures in Turkey in a move that reflects its strong concern over the functioning of democratic institutions in the country.

The decision in the Strasbourg-based Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was approved on a vote of 113-45 after a nearly three-hour debate.

The assembly’s monitoring committee raised concerns over constitutional amendments that were approved this month in a national referendum amid a state of emergency.

Turkey rapporteur Marianne Mikko said Tuesday the amendments, which significantly expand the powers of the presidency, “do not comply with our fundamental and common understanding of democracy. ”

She stressed that the monitoring process is not “punishment” but a bid to strengthen dialogue with Turkey.

The committee was critical of the atmosphere ahead of the referendum and of emergency decrees after the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

It pointed to the detention of parliamentarians and journalists and the sweeping dismissals of civil servants allegedly linked to the coup.

Mikko also expressed disappointment that Turkish authorities were considering the re-introduction of the death penalty.

Turkey, a founding member of the Council of Europe, had been under post-monitoring dialogue since 2004.

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs swiftly condemned the decision as a “disgrace” and dismissed its motives as “political.”

It said the decision reflected anti-Turkey sentiments and came under the influence of populist tendencies that fuel Islamophobia and xenophobia in Europe.

“Such a decision leaves no choice to Turkey but to reconsider its relations with PACE,” the ministry said.

In Ankara, the minister in charge of relations with the EU, slammed the resolution describing it as an “unfair and unjust decision.”

“This is a historic mistake for the Council of Europe and for the Parliamentary Assembly,” Omer Celik said.

He said the grouping should have instead shown solidarity with Turkey over its efforts to “find an equilibrium between freedoms and security” as it is combats “terror” groups.

He also said Turkey deserved more support from the assembly, as it hosts some 3 million refugees from Syria.

Amnesty International welcomed the re-introduction of full monitoring of the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey.

The watchdog’s Turkey researcher, Andrew Gardner, said it “sends a clear and powerful message that Turkey must end its crackdown on human rights.”