UN experts: Human rights protection must gain new momentum at Istanbul summit

UN experts: Human rights protection must gain new momentum at Istanbul summit

UN experts: Human rights protection must gain new momentum at Istanbul summit

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Humanitarian action that places human rights at its center is key to ensuring protection for all victims, a group of rights specialists from the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system has said.

“In numerous recent conflicts we have witnessed civilian populations that have been targeted by all sides to the conflicts, forcibly displaced or besieged and who have experienced many gross violations of their human rights. Failure to prevent the targeting of civilians and protect human rights has meant loss of life and harm that can take decades to redress. This demonstrates the massive challenges and the need to better enforce international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law and standards as never before.

Ensuring accountability for violations of international law must be a higher priority for States and the international community,” 44 Special Procedures’ experts said in a statement addressed to participants of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, in the run-up to the two-day gathering in Istanbul on May 23-24.

“States have an unequivocal duty to respect and protect the right to life of all, in particular civilians, without discrimination, and they must also comply with this non-derogable duty in emergencies, crisis and conflict situations. Moreover they have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the full spectrum of civil and political and economic, social and cultural rights. International human rights law provides States and other stakeholders with a valuable resource helping to inform humanitarian responses and laying the foundations for ongoing human rights fulfillment. Those whose lives and homes have been shattered must have their immediate needs met, but they are given hope for the future in their own countries through the knowledge that their rights and dignity will be fully respected during and in the aftermath of crisis,” said the group.

Earlier in May, Turkey offered an open invitation to U.N. agencies to visit the country’s southeastern provinces after reports of human rights violations allegedly committed by Turkish security forces in the region in the past few months. Ankara also refuted a statement by the top U.N. rights official that it has not responded positively to previous requests from the U.N. to visit the region. 

U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on May 10 that he had received a succession of alarming reports about violations allegedly committed by Turkish military and security forces in Turkey’s southeast over the past few months, and urged Turkish authorities to give independent investigators, including U.N. staff, unimpeded access to the area to verify the veracity of such reports. 

Zeid underlined the actions of security forces in the Cizre district of the southeastern province of Şırnak, which has been left devastated by ongoing clashes between Turkey’s security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. He drew particular attention to reports quoting witnesses and relatives in Cizre which suggested that more than 100 people were burned to death as they sheltered in three different basements surrounded by security forces.

Ankara said such statements were “based on insufficient information” and “did not reflect the spirit of cooperation” between Turkey and the U.N. in the field of human rights.