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#Turkey - Human rights lawyer Ebru Timtik dies after 238 days on hunger strike

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Supporters of Ebru Timtik unfurl a poster in front of the Istanbul Bar Association

Today (28 August), lawyer Ebru Timtik died after 238 days of hunger strike. Timtuk was one of eighteen lawyers accused of being part of a terrorist organization, under Turkey’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws. 

Following the convictions last year Milena Buyum, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Turkey, who observed the trial hearing, said: “Today’s convictions are a travesty of justice and demonstrate yet again the inability of courts crippled under political pressure to deliver a fair trial.

“After more than a year in pre-trial detention for six of the lawyers, and three measly hearings marred by fair trial breaches, this politically motivated prosecution has reached it preposterous conclusion. These lawyers should be immediately and unconditionally released and the conviction quashed.”

Timtik was sentenced to 13 years 6 months in prison last March for "terrorism-related" offences. Eighteen other lawyers from the Progressive Lawyers' Association (ÇHD),  were sentenced to a total of 159 years in prison.

The appeals court, which upheld the lawyers' sentences in October 2019, was revealed to give the verdict without reviewing lawyers' appeal. Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal started hunger strikes on 2 January and 2 February, respectively. Ünsal, is continuing his fast and was also forcibly hospitalized on 30 July.

EU Reporter asked the European Commission to comment on Timtik’s death:

The Commission also issued a statement calling for urgent reforms: “Ebru Timtik’s hunger strike for a fair trial and its tragic outcome painfully illustrate the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation and serious shortcomings observed in the Turkish judiciary. 

“A strong and independent legal profession, along with an independent judiciary, is a core principle of a fair justice system that upholds the rule of law and allows for the effective protection of human rights. 

“The EU repeated on a number of occasions and we would like to recall also today that Turkey urgently needs to demonstrate concrete progress on the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, which are cornerstones of EU-Turkey relations.”

The death of Timtik takes place against a backdrop of increasing tensions between the EU and Turkey. EU foreign ministers meeting in Berlin today will discuss possible sanctions for Turkey, and are urging dialogue to prevent a further escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

According to a survey by NGO, Arrested Lawyers, there is a steady increase in the use of anti-terrorism law on individuals by public prosecutors. In the last seven years, Turkish public prosecutors have filed more than 392,000 charges under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code. 220,000 individuals have been sentenced for membership of an armed terrorist organization between 2016-19.

 

 

 

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US Presidential election and Russia

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The US presidential election is just days away. Against the backdrop of a dramatic and unprecedented confrontation between Republicans and Democrats, which borders on paranoia, the anti-Russian theme is actively being promoted, writes Moscow correspondent Alex Ivanov.

It is no secret that in America, accusing Russia of all possible sins and, first of all, of insisting on interfering in the US elections, has become a favorite topic on which only a very lazy person does not speculate.

Especially zealous is the democratic candidate Joseph Biden, who at any opportunity threatens to punish Moscow in the harshest way for trying to influence the election process.

However, in Moscow, the upcoming elections in America obviously do not cause any visible excitement. The Kremlin keeps a silent distance and does not seek to show its preferences. Russia, as before, realistically assesses the election fever in the United States, realizing that most of the statements, slogans and even accusations made during this period have a very approximate projection on the real policy of Washington. In a word, the theatrical action and "high voltage" that occur in America every 4 years practically do not concern Russia in any way. In Moscow have already got used to the loud cries and pleas to "restrain Russia", which in reality have quite a limited impact.

“Competition in a great dislike towards Russia has already become such a constant, probably, of all electoral processes in the United States of America. We are well aware of this and we regret it,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president.

Paradoxically, during the administration of President Donald Trump, who, as everyone believes, was allegedly supported by Moscow during the last campaign, relations with Russia reached the lowest possible point. America has only strengthened its sanctions policy against Moscow in recent years, as evidenced by Washington's incredible attempts to stifle the Nord stream 2 energy project. Such insistence of the Americans has already caused a wave of indignation in the EU, while most of its members do not want to put up with the dictates of the United States, especially Germany.

Periodic outbursts of dislike for Russia lead to other consequences, in particular within the framework of NATO. America, against the background of Germany's desire to develop energy cooperation with Moscow, started a large-scale “happening” with the transfer of its troops to other regions of Europe.

The experience of past elections in the United States shows that sociology is deceptive and it is impossible to be sure of someone's victory in advance. As for the leader of public opinion - Democrat Joseph Biden -he himself recently said that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want him to win. "I had several very frank and direct conversations with President Putin when I was vice president and before that. I think one of the reasons he doesn't want me to be president is because he knows there will be more direct conversations like this," said Joseph Biden.

Joseph Biden himself is confident that relations with Russia will not improve under Putin’s leadership, at least he has repeatedly made it clear during his election speeches. So, recently, he said that the US intelligence services have already warned him that the Russian authorities will try to interfere in the November elections to undermine their legitimacy. According to Joseph Biden, if he becomes President, Moscow will have to "pay a serious price" for such actions. In addition, he promised to seek restrictions on imports of goods from China and Russia to the United States, as well as to counter the growth of Russia's influence in Europe and other regions.

According to Biden, Donald Trump does not take the threat from Russia seriously enough, which makes it easy for Moscow to implement its sinister plans to take over the world. As he seeks the Oval office, Joseph Biden hopes to correct this and other mistakes of the current President.

Joseph Biden and many of his supporters in Washington expect a tougher policy towards Russia. There, for some reason, it is customary to call Donald Trump a "Pro-Russian President" and a "puppet of the Kremlin", despite the fact that he did not actually do anything good for Moscow. An illustrative example of this attitude is a column published recently by the Washington Post staff writer Jennifer Rubin entitled 'Joe Biden would put an end to Trump’s policy of putting Putin first'.

Arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are perhaps the only areas where Joseph Biden can be expected to make positive progress for Russia. First of all, this concerns the Russian-American Treaty on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms (START Treaty), which Donald Trump, apparently, simply intends to let expire in February 2021, instead of, as Moscow suggests, extending it for another five years. The current head of the White house made it a condition of extending the Treaty to involve China in arms control. However, the prospects for multilateral agreements in this area are not yet visible and are unlikely to appear in six months.

Joseph Biden has already promised to extend the START Treaty in the event of his election. The question is how to do this in the two weeks between the date of the inauguration of the new US President (it is scheduled for January 20, 2021) and the end of the contract (February 5, 2021). Russian officials have repeatedly warned that Moscow needs time for domestic formalities related to the extension of such an agreement.

Other agreements are more complicated. So, even the election of Joseph Biden will not prevent Donald Trump from withdrawing the United States from the Open skies Treaty on 22 November, 2020. This agreement allows its 34 member countries, including the United States and Russia, to conduct reconnaissance flights over each other's territories in order to strengthen transparency and mutual trust. On 22 May, Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from this Treaty, justifying this decision by saying that the Treaty is being abused by Russia. If Joseph Biden wants to return the US to the Treaty, he will have to apply to a special Advisory Commission. Given the fact that there are also those among the Democrats who doubt the benefits of this Treaty for the United States, automatism in this matter should not be expected.

We should definitely not expect the parties to return to the Treaty on the Elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, which the US withdrew from last year.

As for the Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the headquarters of Joseph Biden made it clear that he is ready to consider returning the United States to the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint comprehensive plan of action, JCPOA, from which Donald Trump withdrew in 2018). However, this will not be easy to do. First, because in the remaining six months, the current administration can ensure that nothing remains of the deal. And secondly, because Iran can put forward conditions to the United States that they will not agree to.

As for the possibility of placing American nuclear weapons in Poland, along with the transfer of part of the US contingent from Germany, these plans have already been promised by Joseph Biden's advisers to reconsider. In general, his administration will clearly try to make up for the damage done to Euro-Atlantic relations by Donald Trump. Joseph Biden will not demand an ultimatum from European allies to increase their defense spending, threatening to leave NATO. It is not profitable for Russia to strengthen relations within the Alliance, because Donald Trump recently openly admitted that the main goal of NATO's existence is to counter Moscow. While members of the Alliance are engaged in internal disassembly, they have less time and effort to implement this task.

Donald Trump likes to repeat: despite the fact that he is accused of excessive sympathy for Russia and almost collusion with the Kremlin, it was he who imposed the toughest sanctions against Moscow. This is not true: under his democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, more Russian individuals and businesses were added to the sanctions lists. In addition, it was Barack Obama who delivered one of the most sensitive blows to Moscow, arresting Russian diplomatic property in a number of US cities and expelling dozens of Russian diplomats from the country. However, Donald Trump is rapidly catching up with his predecessor: in the past week alone, the United States has imposed sanctions on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, blacklisted five companies allegedly linked to businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin (close to President Putin businessman) and demanded that European creditors of Nord stream 2 withdraw from the project, threatening to impose retroactive restrictive measures against them.

Moscow is waiting for one of two scenarios: either moderately negative or radically negative. At the same time, the personality factor of the US President will only indirectly influence the development of events in a particular scenario.

The presidential election has almost already begun: both Trump and Biden have already voted for themselves ahead of schedule. Moscow remains neutral and refrains from making any comments on the upcoming event. This may be the best way to avoid further unsubstantiated accusations about potential interference and meddling.

Nevertheless, Moscow is very sober and objective about the prospects for further development (or degradation) of relations with America. The eventual victory of any of the contenders is unlikely to bring Russia any tangible positive elements.

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Frontex announces an internal inquiry into media reports of pushbacks in the Aegean

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Last week (23 October) Bellingcat* reported that the EU’s border agency, Frontex, was complicit in illegal pushbacks.

Asked about the report (26 October) Adalbert Jahnz, European Commission spokesperson on migration said: “We have indeed seen the report by Bellingcat and a number of other media and we are taking this matter very seriously. The Commission is deeply concerned about reports of pushbacks or other forms of non-compliance with EU law, including safeguards for protecting fundamental rights and the right to access to asylum.”

Jahnz said that Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson had been in contact with the executive director of Frontex and Greek authorities, the Commission will: “expect both the Greek authorities and Frontex to investigate any such reports thoroughly and ensure full compliance with EU law. We remain in close contact with both the Greek authorities and with Frontex in relation to the required follow up.”

Today (27 October), Frontex announced an internal inquiry into the media reports, but added that: “no documents or other materials have been found to substantiate any accusations of violations of the law, or the Frontex Code of Conduct by deployed officers.”

Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri, said: “In our conversation and contacts, I informed EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson that we are looking into the accusations levelled by several news organisations related to our activities at Greece’s external borders. We aim to uphold the highest border guarding standards in all of our operations and do not tolerate any violations of the fundamental rights in any of our activities.”

Frontex does not have a mandate to investigate the activities of EU member states, but it has carried out two investigations in “operational dialogue” with Greece and found no evidence of illegal acts in one incident and are still looking into the other. Frontex says that the situation in the eastern Aegean has been complicated for the vessels deployed by Frontex to patrol because of a disagreement between Greece and Turkey over their maritime borders, it says that this has affected search and rescue activities in the area. 

A joint investigation by Bellingcat, Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel, ARD and TV Asahi, which received a grant from the Investigative Journalism for Europe fund found that Frontex assets were involved in one pushback incident at the Greek-Turkish maritime border in the Aegean Sea, were present at another and have been in the vicinity of four more since March. Pushbacks or ‘refoulement’ are prohibited under international law.

*Bellingcat is an independent international collective of researchers, investigators and citizen journalists

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EAPM: Why increasing trust between stakeholders must be way forward for health

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Good morning, and welcome one and all to the first European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) update of the week. We come off the back of a busy month for EAPM in October, following our 1 Million Genome meeting and German EU Presidency Conference, as well as engagement with the EU Beating Cancer Plan, which is aiming to set the framework to tackle cancer. And, a little later this week, there is the monthly EAPM Newsletter to look forward to, writes EAPM Executive Director Denis Horgan.

Trust and governance

Despite member state competence in many areas, there is undoubtedly a need for common European health legislation as much as possible, but it must be the right legislation. Unfortunately, experience has shown that having separate rules in every member state does not really work, for a variety of reasons. For example, it often leads to an R&D environment that is not competitive, slows the innovative dynamic and ultimately represents a barrier to the emergence of effective therapies for untreated disease. With more integration, collaboration, dialogue and increased trust among each and every one in the field, stakeholders can help mould the right frameworks, in the right place, at the right time. More about EAPM’s aims in this regard later.

Europe needs 'serious acceleration' in fight against coronavirus: WHO

Europe needs a “serious acceleration” in the fight against the coronavirus and a lack of contact-tracing capacity could drive the disease into the darkness, a top World Health Organization official said on Monday (26 October). In Europe the picture is unrelentingly grim as a string of countries reported record increases, led by France, which posted more than 50,000 daily cases for the first time on Sunday, while the continent passed the threshold of 250,000 deaths. The 46 countries at World Health Organization level accounted for 46% of global cases and nearly one third of deaths, said Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert. “Right now we are well behind this virus in Europe, so getting ahead of it is going to take some serious acceleration in what we do,” Ryan told a news conference.

Placing confidence in the hands of others

From man's earliest ventures into health care, when shamans, priests or medicine men ministered to the sick, trust has been at the centre of the compact between patient and carer. People at their most vulnerable moments choose to place themselves in the hands of others, in the confidence – or at least the belief – of benefit and relief. That compact remains just as valid in today's world of science and technology. The rapid development of medicine in the last 50 years, and more particularly the exponential leaps of the last 25, have created opportunities unimaginable only a couple of generations ago. Genomics is increasingly permitting a focus on the underlying nature of disease – and the underlying processes of health. As a result, at one end of the scale there is a growing ability to treat smaller populations – with orphan drugs for rare disease, or validated paediatric medicines, or advanced therapies, and with an unfurling range of possibilities as personalised medicine evolves. And at the other end of the scale health authorities begin to tap into a wealth of information about health trends, susceptibilities and the value of distinct treatment options that can radically improve health systems management.So the trust invested in the shaman is even more crucial today. The emergence of evidence-based medicine and organised health services that are overseen by governments entitle patients to a degree of certainty that their best interests are being attended to on the basis of reason and equity as well as of faith.

Council welcomes prospect of European health data space

The European Council has welcomed the European strategy for data, which supports the EUʼs global digital ambitions to build a true European competitive data economy. The European Council welcomes the creation of common European data spaces in strategic sectors, and in particular invites the Commission to give priority to the health data space, which should be set up by the end of 2021, and which is being cited as a means to strengthen the immediate response to COVID-19.

And it is not just the Commission that’s working on digital health, with the World Health Organization also presents its global strategy for digital health, which is set to be brought to the World Health Assembly in November. The WHO is currently putting together an investment case to implement this strategy, with member state approval being awaited, the WHO’s Chief Information Officer Bernardo Mariano Jr has said. But public trust is again a big consideration, with critics asking whether people will be willing to share their data on a pan-EU platform, and whether governance will be equired to ensure full participation.

Improving precision and power in randomized trials for COVID‐19 treatments

Time is of the essence in evaluating potential drugs and biologics for the treatment and prevention of COVID‐19. There are currently 876 randomized clinical trials (phase 2 and 3) of treatments for COVID‐19 registered on clinicaltrials.gov. Covariate adjustment is a statistical analysis method with potential to improve precision and reduce the required sample size for a substantial number of these trials. Though covariate adjustment is recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency, it is underutilized, especially for the types of outcomes (binary, ordinal, and time‐to‐event) that are common in COVID‐19 trials. In simulated trials with sample sizes ranging from 100 to 1000 participants, there have been substantial precision gains from using covariate adjustment–equivalent to 4–18% reductions in the required sample size to achieve a desired power.

EAPM to discuss trust and governance in early 2021 upcoming Presidency Conferences

In Europe, the interdependence of member states makes it both necessary and desirable that much of that task of oversight is organized at EU level. It is, inevitably, of course, a more complex compact nowadays. Each component of the systems on which people now routinely depend for their health has to fulfil its part of the bargain. These issues of trust will be discussed in EAPM’s two presidency conferences being planned for January and July 2021 that will address these elements of governance.

Health minister cites ‘strongest EU position on WHO in years’

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has recently spoken of “the strongest EU-level position concerning WHO at least in recent years”. Spahn added that he advocates “for a stronger role of the EU” in the WHO and in global health in general. “We should not leave [it] to the USA and China to call the shots,” he said. 

Public consultation on breast implants

On Friday (23 October) the European Commission launched a public consultation on a preliminary opinion on the safety of breast implants. The Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) opinion is based on anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). Interested parties can submit their comments by 7 December.

Intensive care units ‘could be overrun in weeks’ warns WHO

The World Health Organization has warned that intensive care units in Europe could be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks and that immediate action was essential to prevent essential health systems collapsing and schools closing. In many cities around Europe, the capacity for ICU is going to be reached in the coming weeks,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the entire world, and particularly the northern hemisphere, was at a “critical juncture”.

And that is everything for now – do look out for the EAPM Newsletter, which will be available later this week, and stay safe and well.

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