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Turkey: Serious Rights Abuses Continue Despite Promises Of Improvement

Washington, 26 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. State Department says that -- despite the promises of then-Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz that human rights would be his government's highest priority in 1998 -- serious human rights abuses continued.

In its annual report on human-rights practices around the world, released today, the State Department says disappearances and extra-judicial killings -- including deaths in detention from the excessive use of force -- continued.

The report said torture remained widespread and that security forces often abused detainees and employed torture during incommunicado detention and interrogation.

The report noted that for over a decade, Turkey has been engaged in armed conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organization the U.S. says is a terrorist group.

In Turkey -- a NATO alliance partner of the U.S. -- the State Department said the military exercises substantial but indirect influence over politics in the belief that it is the constitutional protector of the state. A state of emergency first imposed in 1987 remains in force in six southeastern Turkish provinces that face substantial PKK violence.

The report says the biggest single obstacle to human-rights reforms in Turkey is what was called the climate of impunity in which the police and security forces operate.