Turkey to announce human rights, economic reforms over next two weeks  - Erdoğan

Turkey is set to announce an action plan for human rights next week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday, as part of reforms that will focus on freedoms, the right to security and fair trial and freedom of speech.

The action plan for human rights will be announced on Tuesday, Birgün newspaper cited Erdoğan as saying at an Istanbul convention for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which will be followed by an economic reform package announcement in the week thereafter.

The human rights action plan has been prepared "in line with the expectations of all segments of society,’’ Erdoğan said, adding that the economic reform package that will follow will once again "demonstrate the government's desire for Turkey’s economic growth.’’

The Turkish president’s remarks arrive following a vow in November for a slate of judicial and economic reforms. Turkey under the 18- year rule of Erdoğan has been condemned by human rights group for the rapid deterioration in human rights, with tens of thousands of people having been jailed, including prominent lawmakers and civil society representatives as part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent.

The promise for economic reforms to help steady the lira and draw in foreign investment arrived after the Turkish lira sank to successive record lows against the dollar and inflation surged, forcing the central bank to hike interest rates substantially. 

Erdoğan on Wednesday also vowed to complete the Kanal Istanbul, a shipping canal project designed to bypass Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway that he has long championed.

"All of the technical work for Kanal Istanbul is complete and the we have begun work on the other steps,’’ Erdoğan said, noting that the project would take place despite critics.

"We are going to build Kanal Istanbul despite them,’’ he said, "and they are going to see how Istanbul flourishes and transforms into another city.’’

There is strong opposition to the project among professional organisations and NGOs, which maintain that the canal poses a severe risk for the large-scale earthquake expected in Istanbul, will damage the megacity’s last forest areas by encouraging development and harm marine life in the Marmara Sea.

Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu and Erdoğan have been involved in a row over Kanal Istanbul after the ruling party stepped up efforts to materialise the project.