Amnesty: Turkish army operations ‘beginning to resemble collective punishment’

Amnesty: Turkish army operations ‘beginning to resemble collective punishment’

ISTANBUL – Agence France-Presse
Amnesty: Turkish army operations ‘beginning to resemble collective punishment’

A resident walks on the rubble of a destroyed house in the mostly-Kurdish town of Silopi, in southeastern Turkey, near the border with Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. AP Photo

The Turkish military operations backed by curfews in the country’s southeast have begun to resemble “collective punishment,” Amnesty International said on Jan. 20, also accusing the international community of poor criticism against Turkey. 

Turkey has imposed successive curfews over the last months in towns in the southeast to back military operations aiming to crush the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Curfews remain in place in Cizre in the province of Şırnak and the Sur district of Diyarbakır, which were imposed on Dec. 14 and Dec. 2 respectively. A curfew in place since Dec. 14 in Silopi, also in Şırnak, was partially lifted on Jan. 19.

The army says hundreds of militants have been killed in an "anti-terror" operation. 

"The operations currently being conducted under round-the-clock curfews are putting the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk and are beginning to resemble collective punishment," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

Amnesty International called on the Turkish government to end the indefinite curfews, saying residents had been left residents without access to emergency health care, food, water and electricity for extended periods.

"Operations by police and the military in these areas have been characterized by abusive use of force, including firing heavy weaponry in residential neighborhoods," the group said in a report.

"There is little doubt that the Turkish authorities are putting lives at risk by using lethal force excessively and recklessly," it added.

The military operations are particularly aimed at the PKK's youth branch the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H) which has dug trenches and erected barricades in urban areas.

"Security measures, including those aimed at arresting suspected members of YDG-H, must adhere to Turkey's obligations under international human rights law," said Amnesty.

It quoted data from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) saying that 162 people have been killed during the curfews since operations were launched in August 2015, including 29 women, 32 children and 24 people over 60.

With Turkey part of the U.S.-led coalition against jihadists in Syria and a key player in the EU refugee crisis, Dalhuisen said the Turkish authorities had faced "very little" criticism from the international community.

"Strategic considerations... must not overshadow allegations of gross human rights violations. The international community must not look the other way," he said.