Public Statement

21.09.2015

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Paris-Ankara-İstanbul (21 September 2015) – EuroMed Rights, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), the Human Rights Association (İHD), the Human Rights Foundation of                   Turkey (HRFT) and the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly call on the Turkish government to immediately halt the violence and ensure that any security measure complies fully with the country’s obligations under international human rights law. Our organisations are deeply alarmed by the deteriorating situation in Turkey. A strong security offensive launched by the authorities over the past two months under the pretext of countering terrorism has led to grave violations of the right to life, severe limitations to the right to freedom of assembly and expression, crackdown on independent media and repressive actions targeting human rights organisations and activists.

Following the Turkish government’s resolve to mobilise against ISIS, in reaction to a suicide bombing which killed 33 and left over 100 wounded in Suruç, Sanliurfa on 20 July, the authorities have launched a massive counter-attack that has targeted both ISIS and the  PKK. Numerous killings have taken place, targeting both Turkish citizens and the Kurdish people. About 50 civilians, over 121 police officers, soldiers and village guards and 57 HPG/PKK militants are reported to be have been killed since 21 July. Mass arrest operations, often on unclear charges, have also been conducted. Allegations of ill-treatment and abuse while in detention, including pre-trial detention, have been reported and several detainees claim to have been denied medical treatment while in custody.

Cizre, south-eastwards of Syria, was under siege from 4 to 13 September without any break. The round-the-clock, open-ended curfew declared by the Şırnak province Governor  confined residents to their homes and denied people access to food and other basic necessities, including medical care. 73 patients are reported not to have had access to dialysis during the curfew. There was water and power cuts in Cizre. In addition, people were not allowed to bury their dead. As a result dead bodies were  being kept in refrigerators at people’s homes or workplaces. Violent clashes between Turkish security forces and the Revolutionary Patriotic Youth Movement (YDG-H), the PKK’s youth wing, continued in the city, leaving many wounded and killing some, including unarmed civilians. According to the Turkish Interior Minister, the casualties would amount to one citizen and seven “terrorists”, whereas human rights organisations report that 22 civilians may have been killed. Injured people had no access to medical treatment as there were no ambulances or because they were prevented to do so by security forces.

The media and internet ban has been reinforced, leading to the progressive silencing of                   free and independent media. Court orders have been issued blocking websites and Twitter accounts on ground that they have been promoting terrorist propaganda. As tensions increased between the Turkish government and PKK, pro-government protesters attacked leading newspaper Hürriyet‘s offices last week. This followed another two attacks earlier this year. Another newspaper, Daily Sabah, has also been attacked, as well as offices and headquarters of the pro-Kurdish HDP party. The police has also raided a weekly news magazine, Nokta, on accusation that it had mocked President Erdogan.  Arrests of journalists, including foreign journalists, deportations of three international correspondents – freelance journalist Frederike Geerdink, and Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury from Vice News – over the past two weeks and alleged politically motivated firings of journalists critical of the government have placed media freedom and pluralism under serious threat.

This curb on independent media is particularly worrying at a time where the situation in the country makes independent and critical reporting essential to ensure adequate coverage and document abuse on both sides” said Öztürk Türkdogan, IHD President “Authorities must immediately lift the restrictions imposed on-line media, halt the harassment against critical media outlets and strongly condemn the attacks against them and the opposition party. Perpetrators must be held accountable”.

Human rights organisations and activists are also prevented from conducting their activities, particularly when monitoring the situation and providing free legal and medical aid. The risk of them facing administrative charges and judicial investigations, possibly imprisonment, is high. The house of IHD Şırnak Branch’s President Emirhan Uysal, was raided by police forces and lawyer Deniz Sürgüt was arrested and sent to prison. Both are charged with accusations of joining a press conference on “autonomy” and being member of an illegal organisation and carrying and commercialising guns, respectively.

Attacks against protesters, including Kurdish protesters, across Turkey, as well as failures to protect them against violence by extremist groups have also been reported. Over 100 demonstrations, including peaceful ones such as the one organised in Istanbul by peaceful movement Peace Block to which IHD is a member shortly after the Suruç bombing,  have been banned, and protesters have been dispersed by the police forces.

The latest events in Turkey go to show how space for human rights is shrinking dramatically. The EU Commission proposal to include Turkey in the common list of safe countries of origin sounds more ironic than ever now’ said EuroMed Rights President Michel Tubiana. ‘Turkish authorities need to stop criminalising the defence of human rights and reinstate a climate of peaceful negotiations’, added EuroMed Rights President.

Our organisations strongly condemn the escalating violence and recent attacks perpetrated by the government against civilians, particularly the Kurdish community. We also condemn restrictions to media freedom and the right to free assembly and mass arrests operations conducted by the state security forces. We urge the Turkish government to launch prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into allegations of abuse or ill-treatment at the hands of police forces and into the attacks perpetrated against media outlets and the opposition party HDP.  Human rights organisations and activists must be able to carry out their work without restrictions and harassment against human rights defenders must stop.

The Turkish authorities have long used counter-terrorism laws and security concerns as a pretext for targeting the opposition, particularly the Kurdish minority, and silencing critical voices in the country” affirmed FIDH President Karim Lahidji “This can no longer be accepted. The international community must take a firm stance against the grave human rights violations that are taking place in Turkey and urge all parties to the conflict to immediately halt the hostilities and return to the negotiating table so that elections can take place in an appeased climate and the peace process can restart”.

The measures undertaken further undermine an already fragile peace process in Turkey and are in blatant contradiction with the country’s international human rights obligations.

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Figures gathered by FIDH and EuroMed Rights member organisation IHD show that 2686 people, including 127 children and 5 foreign nationals have been arrested between 21 July-28 August. Of these, 136 people were allegedly affiliated to ISIS, 22 to the Parallel Structure[1] and the others were members of   the KCK/PKK and other leftist groups.

352 people have been detained, 33 of which would belong to ISIS, 4 to the Parallel Structure and the rest to the PKK/KCK. 11 children have also been detained.

 

IHD has documented at least 213 cases in which people have been abused while in detention.

 

According to data gathered by IHD 132 people including 12 children would have been seriously wounded during demonstrations that took place across the country since 21 July. This number does not include those who did not go to hospitals for fear that they would be detained or because they have been prevented to do so by security forces.

About 50 civilians, over 121 police, soldiers and village guards and 57 HPG/PKK militants are reported to be have been killed since 21 July, according to data available to  IHD.

 

[1]              « Parallel Structure » is a term, which the Turkish government uses to describe a religious group led by Mr. Fetullah Gülen. Although there was a cooperation between this group and the Government until recently, the government now fights against it. See for more information: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/turkey/11397876/A-parallel-state-within-Turkey-How-the-countrys-democracy-came-under-attack-from-two-mens-rivalry.html.