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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE slams Turkey for Silencing Human Rights Defenders (incl. by Smear via Leaks Hidden to Victims)

CoE slams Turkey for Silencing Human Rights Defenders (incl. by Smear via Leaks Hidden to Victims)

Written by ACM
Sunday, 23 February 2020
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*Strasbourg/Angelo Marcopolo/- The PanEuropean Organisation for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law, CoE, in a rare move, openly Denounced Turkey's blatant "Silencing of Human Rights Defenders", Journalists, Lawyers, even Judges, etc., by various Oppressive Measures, including, recently, even "Smear" by Leaks of official documents ...Hidden to the Victims !

 

Already, the Latest Report by Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic, Denounced the fact that the "Justice System", (to which refers also a Letter of CoE's new Secretary General, Marija Buric : See Infra), "with Numerous Long-standing Problems", "has Worsened by the Addition of New Concerns". that "Result in a level of ... Arbitrariness, which enDangers the very Essence of the Rule of Law". 

But a 2nd Chapter stresses "the Importance of civil society Organisations (NGOs) and human rights Defenders, (incl. Journalists, Lawyers, etc), in a Democratic Society", and "observes that a Series of Negative Developments, ... have created a Chilling effect and contributed to an Increasingly Hostile environment for Human Rights Defenders in Turkey". 

This includes "legislative, regulatory, administrative and procedural Obstacles Affecting civil society Organisations", an "Absence of transparent and objective Criteria and procedures regarding public Funding, Consultation of and Collaboration with civil society Organisations, as well as for Inspections", and "Concern about an increasingly Virulent and Negative political Discourse Targeting and Labelling human rights Defenders as terrorists, which frequently leads to Biased actions", added to "a Widespread pattern of Judicial actions Targeting human rights defenders, which amount to a Misuse of criminal proceedings to Silence them and to Discourage civil society Engagement".


Concerning the "Justice System", the Comissioner pointed out that "the Turkish Judiciary has been at the Heart of most human rights Violations in Turkey for a very Long Time, either by Failing to Rectify violations committed by the Turkish Authorities, or by Causing these Violations directly". Thus, "that at the

end of 2018, the ECtHR had delivered 3 148 judgments concerning Turkey finding at least one violation of the European Convention on Human Rights... Of these, 919 specifically concerned Violations of the right to a Fair Trial, 755 related to the right to personal Liberty and security, 603 concerned Length of proceedings, and 279 the right to an effective Remedy". 

 

- "Reforms invariably Failed to provide long-term solutions to prevent human rights violations. At best, their effects were Short-lived, and the judiciary ultimately Reverted to its Old patterns". 

 

+ Moreover, Recently, it "has undergone major Upheavals, notably following the attempted Coup d’état of 15 July 2016", "accompanied by a general deterioration in the situation regarding human rights and Increasingly Acute Concerns regarding the Erosion of the Independence of the Turkish judiciary, expressed by Numerous bodies of the CoE, including the Commissioner’s Office, the Venice Commission and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)". 

 


Among others, f.ex., Turkey's  "High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK)", i.e. "the main organ tasked with ..."Appointments, Promotions, Transfers, and Disciplinary proceedings",  "as observed by the Venice Commission", has "Powers" that "are not only Greater than in most other European countries, but they have also been Traditionally interpreted and applied in such a manner as to exert great Influence ..., in a Politicised manner that has been quite Csontroversial”.  Already, a previous CoE HR Commissioner's Report since 2012, "identified various Problems, such as ...that the Minister of Justice nominally Presided over the body", "the Minister’s Undersecretary was a natural Member, and ... the Executive power had sought to exert Influence in the Election process and had succeeded".

 

+ "These Concerns have been largely overshadowed by far More Serious ones, as a result of new constitutional Changes introduced in 2017", after which, "All the members of the HSK (can) be Appointed either by the President of the Republic or the Parliament, withOut a procedure guaranteeing the Involvement of All political parties and interests", "in clear Contradiction with European Standards which foresee that at least Half of the members ...should be Elected by Judges among their Peers ...with respect for Pluralism". Given also the fact that, "the New Constitutional System" of Turkey "gives the President of the Republic very extensive Powers, drastically Limits Checks ..., and No longer requires ...to be ..Neutral", CoE's Venice Commissio has Denounced "a Dangerous step Backwards", and "Dangers of degeneration ...towards an Authoritarian and Personal Regime".  

 

+ In Addition, already "since 2013", Turkey practiced "Higher Numbers of Forced reLocations of members of the judiciary, as well as Investigations, Suspensions and Dismissals". 

 

++ Moreover, "this ...Worrying situation changed considerably for the Worse ... after ... 2016 : almost 1/3 of the judiciary, around 4.000 Judges and prosecutors, were Dismissed ..., based on Extraordinary powers granted to the HSYK and high courts" : "...these Decisions only contained a universal, Stereotypical and Non-individualised reasoning, to which Lists of 2.845 and 543 Names were simply Appended", while "the Majority of the judges dismissed ...were subsequently Detained ... for membership in a Terrorist organisation" (sic !), and "the Emergency Powers underpinning the Dismissals" were "Extended .. for a Further 3 Years ...on 2018", so that "one of the most basic guarantees of judicial Independence is effectively Suspended until July 2021",  Mijatovic denounced. 

 

+++ Meanwhile, as she found during her 2019 Visit to Turkey, "9.914 judges and prosecutors had been Recruited After the declaration of the state of Emergency". But, "already in 2012", a previous CoE's Report Criticized "several Problems" "including including the fact that the Majority of members of the board conducting the Interviews for the Candidate judges were representatives of the Executive" power. In Addition, "during the state of Emergency" (2016-2019), the "Recruitement procedure ...became even more Opaque and exclusively Controlled by the Ministry of Justice", while "Loyalty to the Ruling coalition  appears to have become a Key criterion for selection", as "recruitment Criteria were substantially Relaxed", and "many ...judges were Arbitrarily Moved after delivering controversial judgments upholding the Human rights", replaced by "judges with known Biases being Appointed to ongoing Politically sensitive Cases", (etc). 

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At the same time, "Serious Problems and shortcomings continue (on 2020) to affect the Turkish Criminal Code (TCC), the Anti-Terrorism Law, and the Code of Criminal Procedure (TCCP)", (f.ex. on "Public Incitement to Hatred or Hostility", on "Insulting the President of the Republic", on "Degrading the Turkish Nation", etc), that Venice Commission had Denounced on 2016 to "allow for Excessive Sanctions", and be "applied too Widely, Penalising conduct Protected under the ECHR and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", Milatovic (who served also as OSCE's Envoy for Freedom of Expression), observes Nowadays. 

 

And Part of the Issue of "overBroad interpretation by the Turkish judiciary of what constitutes Terrorism, or Membership of an armed criminal organisation", is also "the Long-standing Problem of Impunity and Lack of effective Investigations into alleged Violations of Human rights by (Turkish) Security Forces", already "highlighted time and time again by the Commissioner’s Office", and by "numerous findings of human rights Violations by the ECtHR", she reminded.

 

+ In this Context, "the Erosion of the Independence of the judiciary in Recent years, fostered a climate of Fear, ...boosting Conformism, and Exacerbating the ...tendency to Punish persons who are perceived to be Against the Government", while "portraying Human rights Defenders as Enemies of the state or Terrorist sympathisers, Targeting them both as a group and Personally". 

 

=> "As an indication of the Scale of the issue", f.ex.,  "according to official Statistics there have been 43.553 Convictions to Prison sentences under Article 314 of the TCC concerning Membership of armed criminal organisations, and 2.280 under the Anti-Terrorism Law in 2018"... 

 

F.ex., "the Prosecutions ...against <<Academics for Peace>> and the Convictions of members of the executive board of the Turkish <<Medical Association>>, whose calls for Peace were Interpreted as Propaganda for Terrorism, provide a good illustration of this development" : Indeed,  "over 700 Academics faced Criminal Proceedings in this connection and ...around 170 were sentenced to Prison terms of between 15 and 30 Months", while, even if "the CC appears to have Rectified the situation" much Later, on 2019, nevertheless, this "Ended the Careers of Hundreds of Academics, and created a strong Chilling effect; which will be very Difficult to reverse"... 

 

+ But such "approach is not limited to the Catch-All use made of the crime of Propaganda for a terrorist organisation", as it "significantly Expands the LImits of the offence of Membership of a criminal Organisation, in the sense that increasingly Harmless acts are being considered as Evidence" : F.ex., "In the case of the <<Cumhuriyet>> Newspaper", a perceived deviation from the ...original Editorial Line", or "the use of a Smartphone Application called “Bylock”, deposits in Bank Asya, and links with or using the services of (certain) Schools or Hospitals", (etc). So that "Detention, the Evidence for which was was solely based on Bylock use and deposits in Bank Asya", was Condemned as a "Violation" of "Civil and Political Rights" by the "UN Human Rights Committee" on 2019. Similarly, on "the Gazi events' Case", ("remarkable by the Absence of objective Indicators of Criminal activity"), "“a compilation of ...long, indiscriminate Transcripts of many Wire-Tapped Telephone Conversations, some of which reportedly bear Little Relevance", or "indiscriminate listing of various, Lawful acts, including Contacts with the (CoE's Human Rights) Commissioner" (sic !), "suggests that (Turkish) Prosecutors can use perfectly Lawful acts to justify the Prosecution and Detention of a person, if they wish to do so"..., something that the ECHR recently Condemned in Strasbourg, Mijatovic Warned. 

 

In such Cases, the Turkish "prosecutors and courts Impugn a criminal Motive or presumed Intention on the suspect First, Before collecting or examining the available Evidence, Rather than going From Evidence Towards Guilt", so that "actions which should be considered Lawful in a democratic society, including statements and acts Protected under the ECHR, are re-Interpreted as circumstantial Evidence used to prove Criminal intent",  with "a clear Risk of resulting in Judgments of Intentions (“procès d’intention”), where No amount of material Evidence can Prove the person’s Innocence"... 


=> "As a Result" of all that, "while many of the Long-standing Concerns regarding the application of criminal law provisions Continue to apply", in Addition, "the situation significantly Deteriorated in Recent years" : ... Unlawful interferences with rights and freedoms enshrined in the ECHR Expanded, both in scale and scope", while "it has become virtually Impossible to Assess ...whether a Legitimate act ...will be re-Interpreted as Criminal activity by Turkish prosecutors", CoE's Commissioner concluded. 

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>>> This so More Dangerous, that "a Serious, Long-Standing Concern" of the CoE, concerning "the use of Detention" in Turkey, "shows a consistent Pattern in the practice of the Turkish judiciary, Deviating from international and European Human rights Standards, including Premature Arrests, Insufficiently Motivated initial pre-trial detention decisions, serious Deficiencies in the Review procedures concerning the continuation of detention, as well as the Length of detention", Mijatovic Denounced. Such "Problematic practices, "include (i) the Lack of Restraint by prosecutors in initiating Proceedings, ...(ii) Arrests of suspects occurring at a very Early stage of the investigations, leading to long Detentions Before ...Indictment; (iii) ....Defective Reasoning of detention decisions, and particularly...the Automaticity of those Extending detention; (iv) Long periods spent in Detention", (etc), she Criticized, while, Nowadays, "a large Number of Cases from Turkey regarding Detentions is Pending before the ECtHR" in Strasbourg. 

 

=> Meanwhile, "the problem of Insufficient Reasoning, based on Stereotypical formulations" has Extended even Further, "Particularly in Cases attracting Political interest – or where the Executive gives a clear signal", so that "the ECtHR found, for the 1st Time in a case against Turkey, that continued Detention had been used primarily with the ulterior Purpose of stifling pluralism and Limiting Freedom of Political Debate" !, (in Judgements of 11/2018 and 12/2019). 

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+ Morever, "a New development ...is that highly Confidential Information from the Investigation file seems to be used frequently in Smear campaigns" against the Victims, "in pro-Government Media, Despite the fact that the same information is Unavailable" to them... 

 

This Fact indicates that the Real "Motivation" of the Turkish State "is the Restriction of Defence Rights, ..., Rather than ... the Investigation", CoE's Comissioner Denounced. 

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>>> In Front of all these Problems, the alleged "Remedy" of the 2012 Established "Constitutional Court" in Turkey, raises serious "Doubts" Nowadays, Mijatovic observed, (while Many Individual Applications from various Victims of Human Rights Violations are still Often Droped by the ECHR in Strasbourg, until the have used, previously, that Time-Consuming procedure) : 

 

- Indeed, "there are currently 4 interconnected Issues casting Doubt on the Effectiveness of the individual application procedure to the Constitutional Court as a Remedy for human rights violations in Turkey" : (1) the Tardiness of the CC ..., (2) the lower Courts’ highly Problematic attitude" against the CC, (3) the extraordinary Burden ...put on the CC, and (4) finally Recent judgments of the CC, in which it appears to be Departing from its previous, Convention-compliant approach", she Warned.

 

+ And, concerning another alleged "Reform" recently prepared by Turkey, CoE's HR Commissioner critically observes that "the 1st Judicial Reform Strategy published in 2009", already "had No significant Effect on the main Problems outlined above in the long term", while, also "Regreting" the Fact that, Nowadays, "the 1st Package of Reforms adopted by the Turkish Parliament in the framework of this Strategy in October 2019, Falls Short of the decisive and far-reaching reforms Urgently Needed in Turkey" (illustrating that by a List of Concrete Examples)... 

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=> CoE Commissioner Mijatovic chose to Conclude by pointing at "Human Rights Defenders, and Civil Society" : 

 

- "Human rights Defenders and NGOs play a Critical Role in a Democratic society, in making national Authorities Accountable", in "Assisting Victims of human rights violations and helping them ... access ...Redress", so that "they are an Essential resource for improving People’s Lives and the Peaceful functioning of Society", to the point that, "according to the caselaw of the ECHR ..., when an NGO draws Attention to Matters of Public Interest, it is exercising a Public Watchdog role, of Similar Importance to that of the Press". 

 

>>> But, "already for several Years", there, "have been ...Concerns about the increasingly Challenging situation faced by Turkish civil society and human rights defenders in carrying out their legitimate activities", while "this situation has steadily Deteriorated in Recent years", in particular after the State of Emergency since 2016, and has "Not Improved" not even after it was lifted on 2018... 

This cpncerns not only "the Ragulatory Framework affecting Civil Society", and "Lack of Transparency" in "Government Funding and Consultations", 

 

=> but also various "Attacks targeting human rights Defenders, ranging from the Intimidation and Stigmatisation ...in political discourse, to Judicial actions Targeting them". 


As regards "INTIMIDATION AND REPRESSION OF .... HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS,  POLITICAL DISCOURSE AND SMEAR CAMPAIGNS", CoE's PanEuropean Commissioner is DEEPLY CONCERNED that Turkish Officials, ...regularly Target human rights Defenders ..., frequently Labelling them as Terrorists and public Enemies" ! 

 

Indeed, "there have been Many such Attacks Targeting civil society Activists and their legitimate activities, in particular by suggesting that (Medias) Reporting on human rights Violations allegedly perpetrated by the Authorities, furthers the aims of Terrorist organisations and is by extension an Attack on the Turkish State". Mijatovic observed. 

 

=> "Increasingly", Turkish "Government representatives and pro-government media seem to be Targeting certain Human rights Defenders, in a Concerted and Virulent manner, in what could be described as Smear Campaigns and considered Defamatory, occasionally amounting to Hate speech", CoE's Commissioner Denounced. 

 

F.ex., "one of the most noteworthy of these Smear campaigns concerned the human rights Defender Osman Kavala", "mainly based on information Leaked from a Secret investigation File, ... subsequently taken over by Officials in public statements". + "Numerous Statements by the Turkish Minister of the Interior", also "publicly Labelled persons as Terrorists Before any judicial decision establishing guilt, in Disregard of the principle of presumption of Innocence, which is particularly Worrying coming from the hierarchical Superior of law Enforcement forces".

 

=> "Official Statements referred to above do Not remain only at the level of Discourse, but lead to concrete Repressive Actions by the Authorities, sometimes Immediately", she Warned. 

 

- F.ex., they "Started to Prevent" them "from Visiting certain Areas of the Country", "following a Statement by the (Turkish) President ..., whereby" those "Publishing Reports on the Human Rights situation Needed to be "Countered"" (sic !)... 

 

+ And the Turkish "Judiciary seems ...increasingly Influenced..., by launching Proceedings against ... Human Rights Defenders, immediately After Statements by Politicians, or Defamatory articles published in Pro-Government newspapers". F.ex., "for the ECHR, ...Kavala's Detention pursued the ulterior Purpose of Reducing him to Silence". 

 

=> "Such Smear campaigns ... led to ...<Cease its operations in Turkey, due to “an increasingly Hostile political environment and a number of Baseless Accusations”, further Depriving .. of Funding opportunities", 

 

+ In Addition, "the most Acute Problem facing human rights Defenders in Turkey is a widespread pattern of Judicial actions and Criminal proceedings Targeting them" : "Turkish Prosecutors do not hesitate to bring Spurious Charges against human rights Defenders for conducting ...Legitimate activities",  Mijatovic Denounced.

 

F.ex., "“there are clear indications that human rights Defenders working on the human rights situation in South-Eastern Turkey […] have been subjected to various forms of Reprisals and Intimidation in Retaliation for their legitimate activities”. Inter alia, "a Criminal Investigation for aiding and abetting a Terrorist (sic !)organisation was initiated in 2018 against a number of prominent human rights Defenders, in connection with the Publication of a report in 2016 on alleged human rights Violations during the curfews in Cizre", (etc). And among "Numerous" such cases "of HR Defenders in Turkey, in 2017 and 2019, ...was the Sentencing of a HR Defender ; the Detention of the former Chair of Amnesty International Turkey ; the unjustified Arrest and criminal Proceedings against 8 human rights Defenders in July 2017 ; the Arrest of 13 prominent Academics, civil society Activists and human rights Defenders in November 2018 ; the bill of Indictment regarding the Gezi Trial on February

2019", etc.

 

>>> In consequence, CoE's "Commissioner is ALARMED by the Extreme Levels that the situation has reached, where the Majority of the Long-Time civil society Partners of her Office in Turkey, who are Internationally Recognised, prominent human rights Defenders, are facing Serious Charges and the Risk of Lengthy Prison sentences"...

 

+ Similar Findings were made also by CoE's Parliamentary Assembly, about an "Extensive Interpretation of the Anti-Terror Law, leading “to the Criminalisation and Prosecution of human rights defenders and Lawyers" in Turkey. As well as by UNO's Special Rapporteurs on Assembly and Association, on HR Defenders, on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, on HR while Countering Terrorism ; on Arbitrary Detention", etc., who Denounced "a Worrying Pattern of Silencing People whose work legitimately calls into Question the views and policies of the Government", (f.ex.. by "Publishing opinions Disagreeing with the Government’s anti-terrorism Policies, organizing Demonstrations, or providing Legal Representation for other Activists”, etc). 

 


=> So that Cases of "Criminal Proceedings Targeting HR Defenders, ...are too Numerous to enumerate" here, but "the Commissioner has been Closely Following" a lot of them, Citting a Long Series of concrete Cases with very Harsh                      Prosecution, (including, f.ex., "Arrest with Raids to their Houses Before Sunrise", Prosecutor's demand for Sentences up to 15 Years", etc.), which give "a Clear Sign of a Will to Intimidate and Silence Human Rights Defenders in Turkey".     

             

+ To this is Added even "Impunity regarding Murders of HR Defenders", with the "2 Main Cases" : "the Assassination of Hrant Dink, Journalist and HR Defender, in 2007", and that of "Tahir Elsin, Head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and HR Defender, in 2016 ; The Trials, in Both cases, are Stil On-Going", and, ". Despiteclear indications that the Turkish Security forces might have been Involved in both cases, eithernthrough Complicity, wilful Inaction or Negligence, the trials have been marred with Serious Shortcomings and have Failed to fully Elucidate these Murders so far"...                                                                                                                                                      

=> "In Conclusion", CoE's HR Commissioner Denounces a "Worrying", "Continuous and Concerted Pressure exerted on Human rights Defenders, in a Deliberate attempt to Silence them and to Prevent them from Reporting on ongoing human rights Violations in Turkey", "causing" a "very Palpable" "Chilling Effect".

 

=> In consequence, CoE's Commissioner Mijatovic, is "Deeply Worried about an Escalating Negative political Discourse Targeting Human rights Defenders, as well as Smear campaigns in pro-Government Media, that frequently amount to Defamation and Hate speech", while also "Heavily Influencing... the Judiciary" in order to "act with a Negative Bias against them". 

 

So, her 2020 Report "Urges Turkish Officials at all levels to strictly Refrain from publicly Targeting human rights Defenders and Labelling them as Criminals and Terrorists", while "Criminal proceedings Targeting human rights defenders are currently the most Acute Symptom of the mounting Pressure they are facing in Turkey. Criminal Investigations, Proceedings, Detentions, and Sentences faced by ... human rights Defenders, are Too Numerous and Systematic to be considered Individual occurrences, and point to a Widespread Pattern of Misusing the Judicial process to Silence human rights Defenders and Discourage civil society Activism, as Recognised explicitly by the ECHR in a Recent case", (Comp^. Supra). 

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+ To this, was Timely Added a 22 February 2020 Letter by CoE's New Secretary General, Marija Buric, fomer vice-Prime Minister and Foreign/European affairs Minister of Croatia, (2019-2024), to the Turkish Minister of Justice, Abdulhamit Gül, strongly Denouncing the ..."Re-Arrest" of a Human Rights Defender, Osman Kavala, (Comp. Supra) and the "Investigation" opened "against the 3 Istanbul Judges who delivered the verdict of Acquittal" : 

 

 

=> - CoE's new SG asks to be informed "When a Judicial Assessment will be made of the Lawfulness of his Continued Detention, as well as of the Judge's Findings". 

+ She also "espress(es her) Concern about the Investigation, announced by the Council of Judges/Prosecutors, against the 3 Judges of the Istanbul Assize Court, who delivered the verdict of Aquittal", because "the decision to Investigate those Judges sends a Strong Chilling message to the ...Judiciary", and "also runs Counter to ... the Aims (of) the Judicial Reform" currently prepared in Turkey, to "Promote Judges and Prosecutors", in order to "Encourage Judges to deliver Judgements in Conformity with the European Court's case-law", (which has recently Slamed the Condemnation of that Human Rights Defender, as a Misuse aiming, in fact, to Silence him and Restrict Political Debate against Democratic Pluralism : Comp. Supra). 

 


(../..)


("Draft-News")


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Benedict's "Source" to revitalize Europe : - "The World needs Hope", Pope says, calling to relaunch E.U. via Human Rights !

Paris - Lourdes - Strasbourg : 12 - 17 September 2008.

The vital need to re-launch Europe can be succesfully met by defending fundamental Human Rights of the People, said Pope Benedict XVI in his 1st speech in France, at his meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently chairs the EU.

Sarkozy replied by welcoming Christian and other religions' contribution to indispensable Public Debates on crucial issues which affect Human Dignity, Europe, even Humankind, as BioGenetics.

- "When Europeans will see and personally experience that the inalienable Rights of the Human Person .., those of their free Education, their Family life, their Work, ..their Religious Rights, ..are respected and promoted, then, these Europeans will fully understand the greatness of the European construction and will be actively involved in it", Benedict XVI stressed.

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- "It's important that during France's EU Presidency, there is, indeed, a desire for the Church to contribute to protect Human Person's integrity, and I think that there is also a growing Conscience, beyond any polemics, to defend Human Rights, and, thus, contribute to ensure respect for Human Dignity", added to "EuroFora" the Pope's Spokesman, Vatican's Press Director Federico Lombardi.

- "Nobody really told us here that Lisbon Treaty was good for this or that reason to the People. They only told us that we "had" to ratify it, and tried to scare us, but failed", said 2 Irish pilgrims to "EuroFora", after 2 Majority Abstentions in 1999 and 2004 EU Elections and 3 "NO" to Referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005, followed by the Irish "No" in 2008, during a Decade of EU Crisis since the controversial Turkey EU- bid (1999-2008).

More than .."224 cases of Murders, Torture, "Disappearancies" or Destructions" by "agents of Turkish Security forces", where all those responsible for so heavy Crimes still remain scandalously unpunished, despite regular condemnations of Ankara by Strasbourg''s European Court of Human Rights from 1996 to 2008, were examined the same week by CoE's Ministers, who decided to launch a fresh call "urging" the Turkish Authorities to end this dangerous "virtual Impunity" of criminals, without comparison to European countries.

- "Why not Ukraine, instead of Turkey ?", asked EuroFora a Journalist from "Kiev : the city where it's enough to cross the streets in order to realize that it's a European town", as Sarkozy recently said, before solemnly declaring this week, together with Ukranian President Jushenko and EU Commission's chair Baroso, EU's "recognition that Ukraine is a fully European Country, linked to Europe by culture and History".

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Europe's "Christian roots" and Values, with "openess and mutual respect" to other cultures and beliefs, were highlighted by Sarkozy in harmony with Benedict XVI.

The Human person should be protected "from his inception until his natural death", added the Pope, faithful to BioEthic principles defended by his predecessor and collaborator, John Paul II, of topical importance in France, Europe and the World today, as Sarkozy announced :

- "Fast and important progres in Genetic Science and procreation raise delicate BioEthical Questions to our Democracies", which "involve our view of Humans and Life, and can lead to Social Mutations. That's why they cannot remain only a business of experts", hestressed.

- "It's Politician's responsibility to set a proper framework for such Public Debates", as "France will do on BioEthics in 2009". "Religious and Philosophic traditions must take part, with their ideas and centuries' long experience : A positive Laicity is an open invitation to Dialogue", he said.

- "France engaged in Europe at another Debate on how to make Financial Capitalism more moral", and the "Social doctrine of the Church fits well what is at stake in modern Globalized Economy"

- "But, a "Real Dialogue is not for an elite of a Globalized world : It penetrates deep into the People : That's why Churches should actively participate : .. It's bringing New Oxygen to Public Debates", stressed Sarkozy.

- "Democracy must not be cut off Reason", which is "compatible with Faith", thanks to "the meeting between Christianism and Greek philosophy ", he added, referring to Pope's views. "It means to advance with logic arguments, search what's best and respect common principles of thinking :... It's an everyday need for Public Administration and the Political Debate", he added.
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Pope Benedict's 1st visit to France looked like the start of a brillant, manifold demonstration that this was well-founded and could become true in the lives of the People : After its Theoretical foundations unfolded at a "speech to the world of Culture", inaugurating Bernadins' cultural centre, and its dogmatic instrument shaped at an address to the Clergy in the Historic Notre Dame' Cathedral, he started to resolutely reach out to the People :

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The move went upwards like Bach's music : Begining with a call to more than fifteen thousand enthousiastic Youngsters gathered at Notre Dame's parvis with overnight celebrations, it gained strength in an impressive open-air Mass at Paris'central Invalides'area facing Alexander III's bridge, attended by more than 150.000 people, French Prime Minister Fillon, many Ministers, Foreign Ambassadors, etc, and culminated in a series of pan-European Mega-meetings at Lourdes 150th anniversary, together with all French Bishops, EU Commission's vice-Chairman Barrot, and some 200.000 enthousiastic People from all over Europe and beyond : After a Sea of Lights astonishingly braved Saturday Night's rain, an open-air mass at riverside fields among Pyrenees' Mountains Sunday Morning, was followed on Monday by a Sea of "Compassion" to those facing Health or Life threats, surrounded by an endless gathering of People, whose gigantic dimensions obviously surprised the organisers..

Meanwhile, Benedict had the occasion to speak to the French Priests at Notre Dame of Paris, and with the Bishops at Lourdes, where they prepare a crucial November plenary meeting, due to take important decisions on imminent EU debates and choices about Europe's identity, BioEthics, etc.
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- "A new way of thinking about Laicity has become necessary", agreed the Pope with President Sarkozy at Elysee. While keeping the "distinction between Politics and Religion, to guarantee Citizens' Liberty", "religion is important for shaping Consciousness and contributing, together with others, to create a basic Ethical Consensus in society".

- "Searching Essential realities", (as "God" for christians), needs "Speech : "Logos" in greek, i.e. Reason", "able to shape a Community","with creative work transforming Human History". But "Dialogue" is instrumental for "Reason", because it's the way to "search" for Truth", in "Liberty", according to Greek Platonic Philosophy, with Socrates' dialectics. "Reason" implies "Spirit and Liberty", hence the polyphonic "Music" of "Dialogue", in a responsible, "well balanced" way, to avoid "destruction".

Starting with a "Dialogue between christians and intellectual or artistic movements" highlighted at Bernardins' Cultural Center. with former Presidents Chirac and Giscard d'Estain, UNESCO's chair Anastassopoulos, etc., as well as representatives of Muslim Communities, (including a separate Turkish), after contacts with Jews at Vatican's Embassy, the Pope turned towards the People :

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To French Priests : "Church built on the rock" !
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- Speaking to thousands of French Priests at Notre Dame's Cathedral, Benedict highlighted a solid "Church built on the Rock" of conscious and active persons, transmitting "a lively, energetic and sharp" "God's Speech, actively working on Human History".

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"Praying together" with "representatives of Christian Churches and ecclesiastic communities", (as Orthodoxes, Armenians, Protestants, etc), he called "to reinforce the Unity of the church", against "any form of Division", around Holy Spirit', "the Word","Christ's Justice", and "Love" to fellow- humans : Essentials which "resume all holy scripts", as he said.

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To Young People : "New Horizons"
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To some 15.000 enthousiastic Young People at Notre Dame's parvis, along Seine's river, Benedict spoke about "the Energy of the Holy Spirit" and "the Mystery of the Cross" : - "The Holy Spirit opens New Horizons to Human Intelligence .. and makes it conscious of the real greatness of Christ's sacrifice, dying and resurecting for World's life".

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Some "may slander you as crazy, laugh at you, or even persecute you. But, "the Holy Cross is a symbol of God's love", and "givesmoral strength" : "Witness of People's pains, it's at the same time, a precious, unique expression of their Hopes", he told them at Paris' dawn.

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Invalides' plateau : "People chosen to become God's friends"
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At the 1st open-air Mass in Paris' center area of Invalides, facing the Grand Palais, along the river Seine, during an impressive gathering of more than 150.000, French Prime Minister Fillon, Ministers Alliot-Marie, Bachelot, Dati, Jouyet, Assembly's President Accoyer, Senate's Chair Poncelet, former 1st Lady Bernadette Chirac, former Prime Minister Raffarin, many foreign Ambassadors, and other political personalities were present. (While earlier, from the Socialist opposition, Paris' Mayor Delanoye, artist Robert Hussein a.o. assisted at the Elysee meeting).

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But the "Entry Song" focused on the "People chosen to become God's Friends". The September 11 mass was Dedicated to "Saint Chrysostomus, that great priest of Constantinople", with his "wonderful eloquence and great courage to face challenges", who "made out of despaired and godless people, a people of brothers", opening a possibility to "become all one complete entity", as Pope Benedict reminded.

- "Reason never enters in real contradiction with Faith", stressed Pope Benedict, who prepared his speeches for France during a short Summer rest at Brixen/Bressanone's Seminar, whose Library honors both "Faith and Science".. - "We must use not only our Reason, but also our Faith" : "Get away from Idolatry", "cupidity", "avidity for money, power or even knowledge deviating from essential aims", and other "falses appearances". and "build your Home on the Rock", "with the force that Holy Spirit gives to those who let it act in them", he said to the People of Paris.

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Benedict at Lourdes : - "Become Light (even) in the Dark !"
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- "Our World needs Hope", stressed Pope Benedict, addressing an impressive TorchLight procession at Lourdes' sanctuaries, where a Sea of Lights held by Hundreds of Thousands of People gathered at Pyrenee's Mountains from all over Europe astonishingly kept their flames despite a heavy Rain at a windy Dark Night...

- "150 years earlier (1858 - 2008), ..here, in the cave, ... a simple young girl, Bernadette .. saw a Light". "The everyday life of her Family was, however, made of Misery, Sadness, Sickness, Misunderstandings, Rejection and Poverty... It was hard to live in Jail". Today, "we think to all Human Beings who suffer : The innocent Victims who face Violence, War, Terrorism, Hunger, Injustices, Catastrophes, Hate and Oppression, Violations of Human Dignity and of their fundamental Rights, of their Liberty to act and think. We also think to those who face Familial problems, sufferings from Unemployment, Sickness, Infirmity, Isolation, or their situation as Immigrants, without forgetting those who suffer and die for the name of Christ", he said.

- "But the Shadows of the Earth, did not hinder Sky's Light to shine : <<The Light shines in the Dark>>" ..."A Way full of Light opens in Human History even in its Darkest moments" : ..."As Night falls, Christ tels us : <<- Keep your Lamps alight !>>."Hold a Light while walking in the Night .. sums up our condition as Christians on their way : "We need light, and we are called to become Light !", Benedict stressed to People setting in motion Lights, Flags and Songs with enthousiasm.

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"<<- She looked at me as a Person, who speaks to another Person>>, the poor girl had noted."Light emerges from such a Dialogue", stressed the Pope : "A small Flame called Hope, Compassion and Tenderness dwells inside those who return after being moved by Lourdes' experience". "Christ .. entrusts us with the Mission to let the Light of Charity shine : To make of our Prayers an Act of Love to our brothers and to Fraternal Charity", he concluded.

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(../..)

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