UN pressing Turkey to investigate ‘alarming reports’ of rights abuses

Special to WorldTribune.com

The UN is calling for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Turkey’s southeast region, citing instances of unarmed civilians being shot and rescue personnel being prevented from attending to those injured by Turkish troops.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on May 10 said “a succession of alarming reports” of human rights abuses should be looked into by independent investigators.

Syrians fleeing the northern embattled city of Aleppo wait at the Bab al-Salama crossing. /AFP
Syrians fleeing the northern embattled city of Aleppo wait at the Bab al-Salama crossing. /AFP

The UN is also pushing Turkey to reform anti-terror laws that opponents say are increasingly used against government critics.

Zeid said the UN had received reports of unarmed civilians — including women and children — “being deliberately shot by snipers, or by gunfire from tanks and other military vehicles.”

Zeid also cited the “massive, and seemingly highly disproportionate, destruction of property” in the Turkish southeast — the entry point for several million Syrian migrants fleeing war, and a region where Turkish troops are battling a decades-long Kurdish insurgency.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scoffed at calls for human rights reforms, insisting that the dual threat from Kurdish militants and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) terrorists calls for strengthening anti-terror laws rather than curtailing them.

Erdogan last week rejected a deal under which the European Union offered Turkey visa-free travel in exchange for Turkish anti-terror reforms.

“They say they are going to abolish visas and this is the condition,” Erdogan told supporters in Istanbul on May 6. “I’m sorry, we’re going our way. You go yours.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) cited shootings and beatings of Syrian migrants, and said border guards last month blocked entry to thousands of Syrians who were fleeing ISIL attacks northeast of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

In a statement, HRW said it had obtained witness reports of three Turkish airstrikes at a camp sheltering 4,500 displaced Syrians near Turkey’s increasingly fortified border. HRW said medics had recovered 20 bodies, including those of two children, and said at least 37 others were wounded in the strikes.