ECHR focus tightens screw on Turkey’s military operations in southeast

ECHR focus tightens screw on Turkey’s military operations in southeast

ECHR focus tightens screw on Turkey’s military operations in southeast

A woman covers her face as Turkish police use tear gas during clashes at the Sur district in Diyarbakır, on January 3, 2016. Tensions are running high throughout Turkey's restive southeast as security forces impose curfews in several towns including Cizre in a bid to root out outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants from urban centres. AFP Photo

Amid focus from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in ongoing violence in Turkey’s southeast, military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in densely populated urban zones are coming under increasing scrutiny. 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu chaired two consecutive meetings of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) high decision-making body on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 with briefings on ongoing operations given by related executives.

Legal action has been taken against 18 mayors and 48 municipals council members from the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as clashes continue, with some MYK members demanding swifter action against HDP municipalities that the government says have been lending logistical support to the PKK.

“We are going over the situation carefully in order not to lead to a disadvantaged situation for Turkey if these practices are taken to the Constitutional Court and the ECHR,” Davutoğlu was quoted by sources as saying in the meetings.

AKP executives were also told in the meeting that security operations were planned to be completed by the end of January at latest.

At a late December meeting, AKP executives discussed ongoing curfews in a number of southeastern towns during operations. Although curfews are purportedly designed to avoid harming civilians, officials also said disturbing images of human rights abuses by police during operations should be avoided and the support of locals against the PKK should be put to good use.

Also in late December, the HDP applied to the ECHR after Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected an appeal by HDP Deputy Co-Chair Meral Danış Beştaş against the ongoing declaration of curfews in the country’s eastern and southeastern regions. 

The ECHR subsequently asked Ankara to submit a defense statement over the ongoing curfew in the southeastern city of Cizre by Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Jan. 8 that Prime Minister Davutoğlu is “eager to return to resolution table.” A fragile peace process and two-and-a-half-year de facto ceasefire collapsed in the summer of 2015.

The report cited a Jan. 6 meeting between Davutoğlu and “a group of intellectuals calling for peace,” referring to observations of the meeting participants who wished to remain anonymous.

“Both the ruling party and [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan are aware that the current situation is not sustainable,” one participant told Cumhuriyet when asked whether a return to the table would be possible.

Erdoğan recently claimed that Turkey “no longer has Kurdish problem, only a terrorism problem.”

When asked who would sit around the prospective table as a counterpart, the same participant responded it would likely be “Kurdish circles who are close to the AKP.” 

The group - composed of Oya Baydar, Baskın Oran, Ayşe Erzan, Nesrin Nas, Raci Bilici, Selim Ölçer, Nurcan Baysal, Gülseren Onanç, Ahmet Faruk Ünsal, Tarık Çelenk, Ali Bayramoğlu, Kezban Hatemi and Mebuse Tekay - also held meetings with leaders of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP on the same day.

Davutoğlu is willing to take further steps that involve the HDP, but Erdoğan and certain hardline figures in the government favor the continuation of security-based policies, Cumhuriyet also reported.

Reminded of calls for the parliamentary immunity of the two HDP co-chairs to be lifted, the source suggested that those calls will likely “remain politically delivered remarks.” 

“In particular, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has frequently underlined their willingness to resolve the matter at parliament and through dialogue,” Cumhuriyet quoted them as saying.