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Monday, July 11, 2016

‘Concerns of Major Cover-up’: Turkey Bans Probes into Kurdish Op Killings, HRW Says

© Sertac Kayar
© Sertac Kayar / Reuters

Turkey is blocking all access for independent investigations into the abuses against civilians in southeastern Turkey, where security forces are battling Kurdish fighters, Human Rights Watch said, calling for the UN to be allowed in to investigate.

Some of the alleged abuses against civilians include unlawful killings, mass scale displacement, and unlawful destruction of private property, according to HRW’s report.

“The government should promptly grant the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights permission to enter the area and investigate according to its standards,” HRW said in a statement.

The Turkish blockade fosters “concerns of a major cover-up,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at HRW.

“Credible accounts of Turkish security forces deliberately killing civilians, including children, when they were carrying white flags or trapped in basements should be ringing loud alarm bells,” said Sinclair-Webb. “The prosecutor in Cizre should conduct a full, effective, independent investigation capable of delivering justice for the victims.”

According to HRW, at least 338 civilians have died in the clashes following the breakdown of a ceasefire in July 2015. Other estimates range between 500 and 1,000 civilians killed.

Thousands of other innocent people are said to be affected by the fighting between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces. And over 355,000 people are said to have been temporarily displaced because of the conflict.

Kurdish militants are fighting for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy for Kurds – demands which Ankara rejects.

Majority of the destruction is said to have targeted nine towns in southeast Turkey, including Cizre.

Turkish security operations have introduced “round-the-clock curfews on 22 towns and city neighborhoods,” HRW said. The curfews prohibit all movement without permission and prevent access to non-governmental organizations, journalists, and lawyers.

“Authorities have blocked rights groups – including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights – from trying to document abuses even after curfews and operations ended,” according to HRW.

“Amid a mounting death toll and a spiralling conflict, real accountability in Turkey’s southeast is crucial” added Sinclair-Webb. “Prosecutors should thoroughly and effectively investigate all allegations of abuse by state forces and armed groups, and no legal or extra-legal measures should be taken to try to ensure impunity for personnel responsible for these crimes.”

Meanwhile, the Turkish government had denied allegations that is has targeted civilians in its military operations.

Despite mounting evidence of abuses, little is being done to lift the Turkish blockade. In March, RT launched a petition calling for a UNHRC-led investigation into claims that mass killings of Kurdish civilians had taken place in Cizre.

The petition was based on reports from an RT crew that visited the area and found shocking scenes of destruction. RT journalists also collected horrifying accounts of atrocities committed against Kurdish civilians there.