Sudanese president al-Bashir is among those in attendance at this week's Turkey Africa Cooperation Summit being held in Istanbul. His presence has outraged many human rights activists, who feel that inviting al-Bashir signals Turkish complacency in the Darfur crisis. Among others, the New York based Human Rights Watch has called on Turkey to use the opportunity to support a court case against Bashir, who has been indicted on genocide charges by the ICC. There is little public evidence that such support has been given.
At a private meeting, Turkish president Gul told Bashir that he should "work hard" to end the violence in Darfur, which is tantamount to telling a small child to 'play nice' in the sandbox, only for him to return to his previous antics as soon as no one is looking. Such requests are unlikely to shake Bashir, who has vowed never to turn any Sudanese over to the ICC, and does little in the way of ending the crisis in Darfur.
Turkey's human rights record is itself laden with violations, especially as regards military-civilian relations and Article 301 of its constitution which prohibits "denigrating Turkishness." Nevertheless, the country is signatory to various human rights documents, among them the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As a country fervently seeking entry into the EU, it is moreover in Turkey's interest to choose its friends and allies carefully, as any misstep may cost it that coveted EU seat.
Yet with China rising in the international arena despite its unwillingness to 'save Darfur,' it is not surprising that a country like Turkey might not express particular concern, either. China's message is in many ways one of strategic and international success coupled with frequent disregard for the West and international doctrines. Under such an approach countries like China continue to gain international dominance and countries like Sudan are let off the hook. It's a dangerous form of realist politics that the global community shouldn't be too quick to tolerate.