Turkish and Armenian human rights organizations called on Friday for a speedy implementation of the agreements to normalize relations between their countries welcomed around the world.
The Yerevan-based Civil Society Institute and several Turkish non-governmental groups made the appeal in a joint statement issued during the annual congress of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) held in the Armenian capital.
The statement urges Armenia’s and Turkey’s leading political groups to take “all the necessary steps” to accelerate the implementation of the Turkish-Armenian protocols signed in October. “Progress in this direction and the process of democratic transformation in Turkey would create a favorable environment for addressing the painful issue of the Armenian Genocide,” it says.
“We want to open the doors locked by the official parties,” Yavuz Onen of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey said, presenting the statement at a news conference.
Yusuf Alatas, a Turkish human rights lawyer who also signed the statement, assured Armenian journalists that most ordinary Turks want improved relations with Armenia.
The statement emphasizes the importance of human rights protection in Turkey and the South Caucasus, saying that would foster “peace initiatives, reconciliation and good-neighborly relations” among the peoples of the region. It also demands the abolition of all restrictions on free speech and, in particular, the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code dealing with “insults to the Turkish nation.”
Turkish authorities have used the clause to prosecute prominent writers, journalists and other public figures that have publicly referred to the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The human rights groups also urged Ankara and Yerevan to sign up to an international treaty that set up a permanent tribunal empowered to punish crimes against humanity. They said joining the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is important for “establishing a lasting peace between Armenia and Turkey and preventing mutual animosity in the future.”