Last Updated: Friday, 09 December 2016, 14:35 GMT

FIDH and IHD call the international community to immediately suspend sales of tear-gas and crowd-control equipment to Turkey

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 18 June 2013
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH and IHD call the international community to immediately suspend sales of tear-gas and crowd-control equipment to Turkey, 18 June 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51cc38cc3c4.html [accessed 9 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Last Update 18 June 2013

The repression of protests that began on 28 May 2013 has intensified in recent days.

Police abuse documented during the first weeks was deemed "regretful" by the Turkish authorities, who opened parallel channels of dialogue with the representatives of Gezi park.

Despite these openings, on Saturday 15 June, Prime Minister Erdogan called upon the police to clear Gezi park. The police assisted by the gendarmerie attacked protesters in the park and surrounding areas to evacuate the site. This operation resulted in human rights violations greater than those previously committed. The lack of independent investigation into the violations committed in recent weeks has raised concerns that this impunity has been the breeding ground for an escalation of violence.

Criminal and disproportionate use of force

According to figures published by the Turkish Medical Association, on the 17th of June 7,642 people were injured during the repression of protests throughout Turkey. Many injuries to the head or to the body reflect the inappropriate use of teargas or plastic bullets, in violation of international law, notably the UN Principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.

According to information gathered by the Human rights foundation of Turkey (HRFT) and the Human rights association (IHD), two protestors were killed. One protestor and a policeman also died. One of the protestors was shot in the head by a police officer who has not been suspended from duty. Another one was killed by the police forces after being shot in the head by a tear gas canister. One was ran over by a car that was intentionally driven into the crowd. A policeman fell down and died while he was running after protesters.

Additionally, two people, including a cleaning officer, have died as a possible result of tear gas intoxication.

Many injuries to the head or to the body reflect the inappropriate use of teargas or plastic bullets.

The Divan, Ramada and Hilton hotels, which served as a refuge and infirmaries for sick or injured protesters were raided by police who used teargas grenades in violation of the prohibition of their use in enclosed spaces. In addition, several hospitals were attacked with teargas, notably the Universal German Hospital near Taksim Square.

Medical personnel under threat

Many doctors and medics who were bringing assistance to injured protesters were also threatened. According to the Istanbul Medical Chamber (İstanbul Tabip Odası), three nurses and a doctor are currently in detention.

Criminalisation of political activity

On Tuesday 11 June while a particularly violent police operation designed to evacuate Taksim Square was taking place, 70 people were arrested during a raid against the Social Democracy Party (SDP). While most were released after four days of detention, four remain detained and are prosecuted for having participated in organised criminal activities[1]. They will thus be judged according to special procedures (closed trial, heavier sentences, etc.).

In addition, this morning on 8th June, a large and unconfirmed number of political opponents' houses and offices were raided and their occupants detained both in Ankara and Istanbul. They are accused, amongst other things, of 'belonging to an illegal organisation'.

FIDH is concerned about the use of criminal provisions that have been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations' mechanisms of protection of human rights and by the European Court of Human Rights. Nothing today justifies this use of special judicial procedures or the use of vague charges of organised criminal activities instead of the law governing demonstrations.

Violation to freedom of information

Independent media coverage of the protests and incidents that surrounded them has been seriously lacking in the Turkish media. The few independent channels that relayed the information have been prosecuted and sentenced to huge fines in violation of freedom of expression and information.

Thus, Halk TV, Ulusal TV, Cem TV and EM TV were sentenced to very high fines (Halk TV was sentenced to 1Â-46,000 Turkish lira) by the High Council of Radio and Television of Turkey (RTÜK) for "undermining the physical, moral and mental development of children and young people", after broadcasting images of the repression.

In this context, FIDH and IHD reiterate their calls to the Turkish authorities which were sent in recent weeks, and in particular to

  • release and drop the charges against all those arrested during the protests, at the headquarters of the Social Democracy Party, and during police raids;

  • guarantee freedom of expression and ensure that the fight against political violence complies with human rights standards, as requested to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the 38th FIDH Congress in Istanbul in May;

  • send an independent commission of inquiry to shed light on the disproportionate use of force by the law enforcement agents during the demonstrations all across Turkey in recent weeks;

  • ensure that the individuals responsible for human rights violations be prosecuted and tried under international human rights standards.

Given the increasing number of human rights violations committed by the authorities in charge of policing, FIDH, HRFT and IHD have decided to seize the relevant international monitoring mechanisms of the United Nations and of the Council of Europe, namely the UN Special rapporteur on freedom of expression, on freedom of association, on the prevention of torture, on protection of human rights while countering terrorism, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

In addition, FIDH and IHD call upon the international community to

  • condemn in the most stark terms the disproportionate use of force and repression of demonstrations;

  • call for the immediate establishment of an independent and impartial commission of investigation into the repression of these protests;

  • suspend and ban all exports of tear gas and crowd control material to Turkey, until investigations have been made as regards to their improper use and until the perpetrators of such improper use are held accountable.

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