ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations asked the Turkish government on Tuesday to end the state of emergency in place since July 2016 and grant its human rights office access to the country’s Kurdish-populated region where “massive and serious” human rights violations occurred.
A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the violations committed by security forces “included killings, torture, violence against women, the excessive use of force, destruction of housing and cultural heritage, prevention of access to emergency medical care, safe water and livelihoods, and severe restrictions of the right to freedom of expression.”
Turkey consistently failed to conduct credible criminal investigations into the civilian deaths that occurred during a phase of urban warfare in 2015-2016 between government forces and Kurdish rebels, the 28-page report stated.
It documents cases of torture and ill-treatment in custody, including severe beatings, sexual assault, electric shocks, and waterboarding by the army and police, as well as military operations on Kurdish villages.
“I urge the Government of Turkey to ensure that these allegations of serious human rights violations are investigated, and the perpetrators are brought to justice,” UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
“I again call on the Government to grant my Office full and unfettered access to be able to directly, independently, and objectively assess the human rights situation in the southeast of the country,” he wrote.
The Turkish Ministry of Defense, the UN noted, documents that between July 2015 and June 2017, 10,657 “terrorists were neutralized.”
“Lack of clarity over the meaning of the word ‘neutralized’ is cause for deep concern,” Al Hussein said, calling on the authorities to provide detailed information about the fate of those individuals.
In his call to the state of emergency in Turkey, the Commissioner noted that it had led to “profound human rights violations” against hundreds of thousands of people – from arbitrary deprivation of the right to work and to freedom of movement, to torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions, and infringements of the rights to freedom of association and expression.
“One of the most alarming findings of the report is how Turkish authorities reportedly detained some 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth, mostly on the grounds that they were ‘associates’ of their husbands, who are suspected of being connected to terrorist organizations. Some were detained with their children and others violently separated from them,” he added.
“This is simply outrageous, utterly cruel, and surely cannot have anything whatsoever to do with making the country safer,” he said.
In response, Turkey’s Foreign Minister accused the Commissioner of having relegated OHCHR under his administration “into a position of a collaborator of terrorist organizations,” refraining from using Al Hussein’s name, referring to him as “this person” instead.
“The last text that he published contains unfounded allegations matching up perfectly with the propaganda efforts of terrorist organizations. This is an unacceptable situation,” a statement read.
Noting Erdogan’s increasing extensions of powers into the legislative and judicial branches, the report criticized presidential decrees that bypassed parliamentary scrutiny and circumventing the Constitutional Court’s appeal procedure.
“Since September 2016, 87 out of 105 mayors were imprisoned, including 35 women and 52 men. All are of Kurdish origin. As of December 2017, the Ministry of Interior had appointed 94 trustees (only men) in 105 municipalities in southeast Turkey,” the Commissioner said.
On an intensifying crackdown on the media, Al Hussein said over 100,000 websites were reportedly blocked in 2017, including a high number of pro-Kurdish websites and satellite TV channels.
Since a failed coup in 2016, nearly 160,000 people were arrested, 152,000 civil servants dismissed or prosecuted, many totally arbitrarily, a situation the UN said was used to severely and arbitrarily curtail the human rights of “a very large number of people.”
“The numbers are just staggering,” Al Hussein said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany