Ilhan Tanir
Jul 19 2018

U.S. senators ask Trump to stop loans to Turkey over rights abuses

A senate bill introduced by prominent group of bipartisan U.S. senators called on the Unites States government to work with other international monetary institutions “to restrict loans from financial institutions until Turkey ends the unjust detention of U.S. citizens.”

The bill asks U.S. officials to make sure that potential future financial aid to Turkey must advance the cause of repairing human rights abuses in the country. 

The bill asks the U.S. administration to instruct the U.S. executive director of the World Bank and other international financial institutions, including International Monetary Fund ''to develop a coherent policy approach to future engagements with and lending to the government of Turkey, in a manner that will advance human rights, including the full restoration of the rights guaranteed to the people of Turkey through that government’s commitments as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.''

Ahval's Mark Bentley wrote in June 16 that the IMF, which last sponsored Turkey a decade ago, may already be gearing up to provide the country with assistance after the lira slumped to a record low against the dollar. The latest sell-off was prompted by comments in London by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who scared foreign investors by saying he planned to take more control of the economy.

This week, Erdoğan once again unnerved investors by saying interest rates would fall and issuing a decree giving himself the sole power to appoint the central bank governor and his deputies. Erdoğan also appointed his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, to take charge of the economy. 

Since Erdoğan announced the new cabinet ministers on July 8, the lira has lost nearly 10 percent of its value.

U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) "to restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of U.S. citizens." 

The “Turkey International Financial Institutions Act” said: "International and civil society organisations have documented significant human rights abuses by the government of Turkey since the failed coup attempt in July 2016."

It also cites the 2017 U.S. State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Turkey, which highlights "significant human rights issues in Turkey, including the arbitrary arrest and detention under the state of emergency of tens of thousands, including members of parliament and two Turkish-national employees of the U.S. Mission to Turkey”.

The Senate bill said U.S. "citizens continue to be subjected to unacceptable harassment and human rights violations by the government of Turkey, including prolonged detention on unsubstantiated, politically motivated allegations, and arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement."

A Turkish court ruled on Wednesday to keep U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson in jail while he faces trial on terrorism charges in a case that has harmed already poor relations between the United States and Turkey.

Brunson is charged with supporting the both the outlawed Islamist Fethullah Gülen movement and left-wing Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) armed insurgents.

 “The U.S.-Turkey relationship should be strong and based on shared objectives from stability in the Middle East, to NATO’s resilience, and economic prosperity for both of our countries,” Menendez said in a statement.

“I find it difficult to see how this relationship moves forward, and how we work on these shared objectives, if the Turkish government continues to detain Pastor Brunson as well as locally employed staff, journalists, and civil servants. The United States cannot continue to support loans to Turkey from International Financial Institutions so long as the Turkish government targets and detains U.S. citizens for cynical use as political pawns,” he said.

“The Turkish government should be fully aware that their continued wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Brunson and other innocent American citizens will be met with consequences from Congress,” said Tillis.

The Turkey International Financial Institutions Act directs the U.S. executive of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to oppose future loans, except for humanitarian purposes, to Turkey by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the EBRD until the administration can certify to Congress that Turkey is “no longer arbitrarily detaining or denying freedom of movement to United States citizens (including dual citizens) or locally employed staff members of the United States mission to Turkey.”

The senators said Turkey relied heavily on loans from both the IFC and the EBRD and in 2017 was ranked second among all IFC recipients with $927 million in new long-term commitments. Turkey was the largest EBRD borrower in 2017, securing about $1.8 billion in new commitments."
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.