Turkish EU membership: evidence of torture still reported

The European Commission said Wednesday it was still uncovering evidence of torture and ill-treatment of minorities in Turkey and again pressed Ankara to improve human rights. In a progress report on Turkey's path toward European Union membership, the EU's executive office also warned Turkey to stop its backward slide on instituting judicial reforms. It also called on Turkey to recognize Cyprus' Greek-Cypriot leaders.

The report sounded one positive note, saying Turkey's economy was moving in the right direction. The text declared it "a functioning market economy."

The judiciary and human rights, however, remain areas of major concern, the AP reports.

"Turkey needs to intensify the fight against impunity," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters. "There are still major problems to be tackled and even if Turkey sufficiently meets the political criteria ... it needs to significantly reinforce its efforts to enhance the rule of law and human rights."

The 25-nation bloc officially started entry negotiations with Turkey last month and the talks are likely to last at least a decade. Respect for the rights of non-Muslim religious minorities, and the application of laws to stamp out torture and grant civilian control of the military "are expected to be accomplished within one to two years," Rehn said.

The EU report said 331 complaints of torture were made to the Human Rights Association of Turkey in the first three months of this year. EU nations will push Ankara to recognize Cyprus - a fellow EU member - early on in the negotiations.

Turkey refuses to recognize the divided island's Greek-Cypriot leaders, and instead backs a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot republic in the country's north. A.M.