A group of prominent Democratic senators re-introduced on Friday a bill that would impose US sanctions on the government of Turkey if it does not take measures to address its deteriorating human rights record.
Edward Markey, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced the move in the Senate, which could lead to President Joe Biden imposing sanctions on Turkey.
The bill would focus on “officials of the government of Turkey found responsible for the detention of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, politically motivated detention of journalists, restricting freedom of expression through social media, and other gross violations of internationally recognised human rights”.
The 19 page-bill accuses Ankara of detaining tens of thousands of people and for cracking down on political freedoms under the guise of investigating the attempted coup of July 2016.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had imposed a state of emergency until 2018. But the government has continued detentions, jailing journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians.
According to non-governmental organisation the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey was the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists in 2020.
The bill directs the US secretary of state to provide assistance to civil society organisations in Turkey that are working towards the release of political prisoners.
It calls on Ankara to “take steps to significantly improve the dire climate for journalists” and “cease its ongoing crackdown on free expression on the internet, including repealing or amending laws that allow the government to block a website or remove content from the website”.
The bill says Turkey’s government must halt the indiscriminate detention and prosecution of lawyers, judges and prosecutors and fulfil its obligations under international agreements.
If those measures are not implemented, the senators write in the legislation, the president will impose sanctions in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the Khashoggi Ban.
It also says the Treasury Department should then direct key international financial institutions to oppose any loans, grants, policies or strategies “determined to be enabling the Turkish government to violate the human rights of its citizens”.