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Turkey Accused of Gross Human Rights Violations in Gezi Park Protests
TURKEY - October 2 - Turkish authorities committed human rights violations on a massive scale in the government’s attempts to crush the Gezi Park protests this summer said Amnesty International.
In a report published today the organization details the worst excesses of police violence, during the protests, the failure to bring these abuses to justice and the subsequent prosecution and harassment of those that took part.
“The attempt to smash the Gezi Park protest movement involved a string of human rights violations on a huge scale. They include the wholesale denial of the right to peaceful assembly and violations of the rights to life, liberty and the freedom from torture and ill-treatment,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey.
A “democratization package” announced by the Prime Minister on Monday fails to address these violations or to take any serious steps to ensure that they will not occur in the future.
Amnesty International’s report, Gezi Park protests: Brutal denial of the right to peaceful assembly in Turkey, details how the use of live ammunition, tear gas, water cannon, plastic bullets and beatings of protestors left more than 8,000 people injured at the scene of demonstrations. The deaths of at least three protestors have been linked to the abusive use of force by police.
The organization monitored demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara and interviewed scores of people in four cities across Turkey who were injured by police or who were unlawfully detained, beaten or sexually assaulted during detention.
The report documents how:
• Protesters and others were severely beaten resulting in one death and scores of injuries.
• Police frequently fired plastic bullets directly at protesters’ heads and upper bodies;
• Tear gas canisters were routinely fired directly at protestors, bystanders and sometimes into residential buildings and medical facilities, resulting in hundreds of injuries and, according to witnesses, at least one death;
• Chemical irritants were added to water cannon supply tanks;
• Women protesters were sexually abused by law enforcement officials;
• Live ammunition was used, killing one protester
“The levels of violence used by police in the course of Gezi Park protests clearly show what happens when poorly trained, poorly supervised police officers are instructed to use force - and encouraged to use it unsparingly – safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely ever to be identified or prosecuted for their abuses,“ said Andrew Gardner.
The vast majority of police abuses already look likely to go unpunished, while many of those who organised and participated in the protests have been vilified, abused and now face prosecution on unfair or inflated charges. Those who assisted protestors or reported on the protests – such as doctors, lawyers, journalists and even businesses - have faced threats and harassment.
“The determination of the Turkish authorities to end the Gezi Park protests – and discourage their recurrence is clear. Their tactics of choice have been force, threats, insults and prosecution,” said Andrew Gardner.
“Hundreds of people are facing prosecution solely for their participation in the demonstrations without evidence that they themselves participated in any violent act.”
“Many of those accused of organising of the protests are being investigated under anti-terrorism legislation.”
“The Turkish government must learn to tolerate the dissenting opinions expressed through street protests and ensure that police are equipped, trained and instructed to police them lawfully.”
Amnesty International is calling on governments and suppliers of riot control equipment to impose an immediate export or transfer ban on Turkey: In particular tear gas and pepper sprays; plastic bullets and other kinetic impact projectiles.
Such a ban should remain in force until the Turkish authorities allow prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the allegations of abusive or arbitrary use of force, and demonstrate a commitment to their use in accordance with international standards.