Open Letter to the Turkish President and Prime Minister regarding the police disproportionate use of force

Press release
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This letter was co-signed by the following FIDH’s member organizations :

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Ligue des Droits de l’Homme - France Philippine Alliance for Human Rights Advocates Zimrights - Zimbabwe Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos de Bolivia
Comision Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos - Ecuador Fundacion Regional de Asesoria en Derechos Humanos - Ecuador Internationale Liga fur Menschenrechte - Germany Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme - Democratic Republic of Congo Association Marocaine des Droits de l’Homme - Marocco
Ligue Hellenique des Droits de l’Homme - Greece Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos - Peru Bahrain Center for Human Rights Gulf Center for Human Rights Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme - Tunisia
KontraS - Indonesia Human Rights Center - Georgia Kenya Human Rights Commission Comite Permanente por a defensa de los Derechos Humanos - Colombia Foundation for Human Rights Initiative - Uganda
Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains - Djibouti Ligue Rwandaise pour la Promotion - Rwanda International League for Human Rights - USA Civil Liberties Organization - Rwanda Ligue Algérienne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme - Algeria

President, Prime Minister,

FIDH and its member organisations in Turkey, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT - Türkiye İnsan Hakları Vakfı) and the Human Rights Association (IHD - İnsan Hakları Derneği), express their deep concern and indignation regarding the disproportionate police violence shown during the demonstrations that started on the 27th of May 2013.

These demonstrations, initially against a redevelopment project in Gezi Park, have rapidly turned into a protest movement against oppression in reaction to police brutality and the violence inflicted upon the protesters in Taksim Square.

To date, and according to information released by the Turkish Medical Association, 2800 individuals have been wounded during the protests in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir only. On Monday the 3rd of June, a first death was reported. Yesterday, a second person was killed. Over three thousand individuals have been arrested and many possibly subjected to acts of torture and/or ill-treatment reports FIDH’s member organisation HRFT.

Our member organisations, HRFT and IHD have documented the excessive and disproportionate use of tear-gas against protestors, in violation with international law, notably the UN Principles on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.

Tear-gas canisters were widely used against initially peaceful protests. Many more canisters were dropped from helicopters above residential areas devoid of protesters. On several occasions, tear-gas canisters were shot into homes, in violation with the principles of necessity and proportionality.
Moreover, and on several occasion, tear-gas canisters were shot at close range towards the protesters heads causing numerous eye injuries and head traumas.
Furthermore, attacks using undetermined gas and assaults against ambulances blocked, on several occasions, medical assistance reaching injured protesters.

Within this context, we call upon you to:

  • guarantee the right of assembly, peaceful protest and freedom of expression
  • release all peaceful protesters currently detained
  • guarantee access to medical care to those in need
  • put an immediate end to all acts of police violence against protesters
  • set-up an independent and impartial commission of inquiry into allegations of torture and ill- treatment as well as the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials.

As we recently said to the President of the Republic and Deputy Prime Minister, on the occasion of the 38th FIDH Congress in Istanbul, FIDH is particularly concerned by the systematic and repeated violations of freedom of expression in Turkey. Recent events only reinforce our concern that the government favours authoritarianism and repression in response to the legitimate concerns expressed by the protesters, rather than dialogue and consultation.

Once more, we call upon you to broaden the reforms that are crucial to the success of transition in Turkey, as we expressed them in our call to you to implement Eight Essential Measures. Freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of peaceful assembly, are the cornerstones of reform.

With our high consideration,

Sincerely yours,

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

̈Öztürk Türkdoğan, IHD President

Metin Bakkalcı, HRFT Secretary General

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