The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Europe-Third World Centre (CETIM) submitted the following statement on 15 March 2016 to the United Nations Human Rights Council, regarding the dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey:

GENERAL ASSEMBLY                                                          
Human Rights Council
31st Session
Item 4: Situations that require the attention of the Council – General Debate

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Europe-Third World Centre (CETIM) call the attention of the Council to the dramatic deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey.

The recent attack against the daily Zaman newspaper is just the last example of the government’s attempts to suppress all kinds of criticism and prevent the exposure of its abuses and wrongdoings. Prominent investigative journalists who reported on the possible involvement of states entities in the supplies of weapons to violent jihadist groups fighting across the border in Syria were jailed on terrorism charges. The prosecutors investigating on the same matter were dismissed. Peaceful protests are dispersed with tear gas and water cannons. The judicial harassment against members of the parliament, academics, lawyers and other dissenting voices is a further symptom of President Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

The growing militarization of the South-East of the country and the long-term round-the-clock curfews imposed upon several towns in the region are brutally affecting the civilian population. Hundreds of people, including children, women and elderly have been killed, in particular due to the use of heavy weapons by the Turkish Army inside densely populated areas. Entire cities are isolated from the outside world. Wounded people are prevented from receiving medical treatment and die because of their injuries. Doctors demanding access to the curfew zone are pushed back by the police. Corpses remain on the streets often for many days, because their families are prevented from burying them.

The population is not properly informed about a temporary lifting of the curfew. For this reason in some cases people, among them several school-children, have been shot by military snipers because they were not aware of the restart of the curfew. Helicopters and fighter jets fly over the cities and armoured vehicles patrol the streets. Houses are destroyed by the military and water pipes and electricity lines are interrupted and/or destroyed. Access to drinking water, food, electricity and communications are severely restricted. All range of basic human rights are being violated, including right to education, medical care and freedom of movement. In the whole region, an estimated 1.5 million people are directly or indirectly affected by the curfews and the military offensive.[1]

On 28th November 2015 the President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, our colleague Tahir Elci, was killed on the street when he gave a press conference asking for a peaceful solution of the conflict. More then one hundred academics who signed a petition calling for an end to the military operation are facing criminal charges.

Given the gravity of the situation, we urge Member States to convene a Special Session of the Human Rights Council in order to assess and address the tragic situation of the civilians under curfew and to take all necessary steps to put an immediate end to the atrocities committed by the military including by establishing an International Commission of Inquiry or an International Fact Finding Mission.

March 15th 2016

[1]See the report of a delegation of lawyers coming from different European countries which visited Diyarbakir, Turkey, from 21st to 24th of January 2016 to monitor the impact of the curfew on the population. The mission was coordinated by two European lawyers’ organisations: the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH) and the European Democratic Lawyers (EDL), and also the “Unione delle Camere Penali Italiane”.

Photo: The Weekly Bull/Flickr