Turkey: State Blocks Probes of Southeast Killings
July 11, Istanbul: The Turkish government is blocking access for independent investigations into alleged mass abuses against civilians across southeast Turkey, Human Rights Watch said today. The alleged abuses include unlawful killings of civilians, mass forced civilian displacement, and widespread unlawful destruction of private property. The government should promptly grant the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights permission to enter the area and investigate according to its standards.
Since the July 2015 breakdown of a peace process to end the decades-long conflict between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), violence and armed clashes in the southeast region have escalated. During security operations since August, the authorities have imposed blanket, round-the-clock curfews on 22 towns and city neighborhoods, prohibiting all movement without permission. The curfews also prevent non-governmental organizations, journalists, and lawyers from scrutinizing those operations or any resulting abuses by security forces or armed groups. Authorities have blocked rights groups – including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights – from trying to document abuses even after curfews and operations ended.
“The Turkish government’s effective blockade of areas of the southeast fuels concerns of a major cover-up,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Turkish government should give the UN and nongovernmental groups immediate access to the area to document what’s going on there.”
Most of the deaths, destruction, and mass displacement occurred in nine towns, including Cizre. More than 355,000 people have been temporarily displaced within towns or to other nearby towns and villages, or to other regions of Turkey. At least 338 civilians have been killed in places where security forces and the Civil Protection Units (YPS), the armed group linked to the PKK, have clashed.
The majority of deaths of Cizre residents occurred in neighborhoods where the YPS had erected barricades and dug trenches, and clashes took place between security forces and armed groups. However, some civilians were killed in neighborhoods where there were no clashes or barricades.
The deaths of an estimated 130 people trapped in three basements in the Cudi and Sur neighborhoods during security operations in Cizre in early February urgently require a full investigation, as the circumstances that have emerged to date suggest they could be the result of unlawful killings constituting extrajudicial killings or murder. The seriousness of the potential crime means it should be a priority for investigation by the UN fact-finding mission if it is granted access, Human Rights Watch said.
The Oslo Times International News Network/HRW