Turkish authorities violated human rights during Gezi Park protests, says Amnesty International

Turkish authorities violated human rights during Gezi Park protests, says Amnesty International

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish authorities violated human rights during Gezi Park protests, says Amnesty International

"The attempt to smash the Gezi Park protest movement involved a string of human rights violations on a huge scale," Andrew Gardner, the Amnesty International's Turkey expert, said in a statement. DHA photo

Amnesty International has issued a report saying the Turkish authorities excessively violated human rights during the Gezi Park protests, and calling on the government to respect basic human rights and bring those responsible to justice.

In a report, titled “Gezi Park protests – Brutal denial of Right to Peaceful Assembly in Turkey” and published in Istanbul on Oct. 2, Amnesty International said the Turkish authorities had committed human rights violations “on a massive scale” during the attempt to crush the Gezi protests around the country.

“Amnesty International calls on the Turkish authorities to fulfill their obligations to respect the right to peaceful protest and to ensure that unnecessary, excessive, arbitrary or abusive force is not used against demonstrators or other members of the public. Amnesty International calls on the authorities to launch effective investigations into all allegations of abusive use of force by police officers and to bring those responsible to justice,” reads the report.

The police’s excessive use of force on May 31 against peaceful protesters who were demonstrating against the destruction of Istanbul’s last downtown leafy corner – Gezi Park – and the building of a shopping mall in the form of an Ottoman barracks, sparked protests around the country, with an unprecedented number of protesters taking to the streets around Turkey. While five people, including a police officer, died during the protests, more than 8,000 people were injured, 60 of whom were severely injured and 11 of whom lost their eyes, according to figures provided by the Turkish Medical Association.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director, said that while preparing the report they had tried to maintain a distant position from the incidents that happened during and after the protests and tried to add more forensic details. Dalhuisen said that now they had looked into the incidents from a further distance, the situation looks even worse than it did at the time.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, said that one of the main causes leading to the breach of human rights during and after the protests was the government’s intolerance of opposing ideas.

“We had already seen [that the government does not tolerate opposing ideas] but [the Gezi Park protests] were a very clear example. Not only the protesters but doctors, who performed first aid, lawyers, who gave judicial assistance, and journalists, who were doing their jobs, were also defined within this scope,” said Gardner.

“The police do not know how to tolerate these street demonstrations. Therefore, common and systematic human rights violations were experienced,” he said, adding that police, who were accustomed to dispersing street protests usually held for Kurdish rights in Turkey’s southeastern provinces, were not used to protests of the Gezi Park protests’ extent and volume.

Amnesty International also repeated its call for the international community to ban the export to Turkey of chemical irritants such as pepper spray, tear gas, as well as plastic bullets, until effective investigations into their misuse have been conducted by the Turkish authorities.