UN reports recent human rights violations in southern Turkey

UN reports recent human rights violations in southern Turkey

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) [official website] published a report [JURIST report] on Friday describing a plethora of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government between July 2015 and December 2016. Satellite imagery analysis has revealed [OHCHR report] that Turkey has systematically bombed over 30 southeastern towns, forcing civilians to either be killed or trapped for days in their own basements. Between 335,000 and 500,000 civilians have been displaced as a result of shelling, and the destruction has made it impossible to perform forensics tests to identify victims. The report further detailed incidences of torture, disappearances, cutoffs from basic necessities, violence against women, and expropriation. The Turkish government has thus far justified their actions by claiming that victims were part of terrorist organizations. More specifically, the government has taken aim against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an identified terrorist group allegedly responsible for numerous crimes including kidnappings, roadblocks, and the prevention of access to medical services. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] has acknowledged the government’s recent violations as a response to the nation’s attempted coup in July 2016. Hussein has expressed concern over recent allegations and called on Turkey to grant the UN access to investigate recently affected areas.

Since the failed coup in Turkey in July, where Turkish military forces tried to overthrow the government, the Turkish government has taken several controversial steps to strengthen its power. Earlier in March around 330 individuals were put on trial [JURIST report] for alleged involvement in the attempted coup. In January the Turkish Parliament approved a plan [JURIST report], which, if approved by a popular vote later this year, would increase presidential power within the country and would allow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stay in office until 2029. In November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children’s groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST report] alleging they were connected to terror organizations. In October Human Rights Watch warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in place after the failed coup, had resulted in serious human rights violations.