Why Sweden and Finland are right to seek to join NATO: A response to Davor Džalto
Sweden and Finland are fast-tracking their way to full NATO membership, but only after concluding a Trilateral Memorandum with Türkiye, which had threatened to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO for allegedly harbouring Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) operatives instead of extraditing them to Türkiye for criminal prosecution. The United States, Türkiye, and member states of the EU, including Finland and Sweden, consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation. As Džalto rightly notes, however, governments often use political rather than factual and legal considerations to designate who is a terrorist and who is not, at the expense of justice — a point made by a European Court of Justice ruling in 2018 which faulted the European Commission for not providing sufficient justification for calling the PKK a “terrorist organisation”.
“National security” is another elastic term that can be used to justify or excuse human rights violations. The UN Human Rights Committee, in fact, established Swedish complicity with the United States in its transfer of terrorist suspects from Sweden to Egypt where they were tortured. Sweden does not have an unblemished human rights record — no country does — but it continues to demonstrate strong commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, centuries in the making, despite these few, admittedly very serious, violations.
Although nothing in the Trilateral Memorandum itself seems patently objectionable, I would agree with Džalto’s implicit concern that we must remain vigilant to ensure courts in Sweden and Finland apply all domestic, regional, and international legal norms to Turkish extradition requests.