WARSAW, Poland: Turkey’s government is not attending Europe’s largest human rights conference because it was not allowed to prevent the participation of non-governmental organizations.
The U.S. Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency, said on Twitter on Monday that “Turkey is the only country boycotting … because it insists on having the ability to veto NGOs wishing to participate.”
The yearly two-week conference, which opened Monday in Warsaw, is devoted to democracy and human rights. It is organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which comprises 57 states from North America, Europe and Central Asia.
The conference is unique because it allows civil society groups, no matter how small, to participate on an equal footing with governments. That makes it the only opportunity that some groups have to raise their concerns with government authorities.
The Turkish delegation staged a walkout of the meeting last year after failing to block groups affiliated with cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for the failed 2016 coup.
The Turkish government alleges that groups affiliated with Gulen’s movement are part of terrorist movements. It frequently accuses the West of sheltering Gulenists and not providing it with sufficient support against the network.
The OSCE has decided that allegations from a government against an organization without evidence or due process are not enough for a ban.
The U.S. Helsinki Commission said that the OSCE “must remain open to all peaceful civil society.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry did not reply to a request for comment.—AP