UN report documents human rights violations in southeast Turkey

Damaged buildings are seen on November 14, 2016 in Sirnak after a 246-day curfew was partially lifted. / AFP PHOTO / ILYAS AKENGIN

About 2,000 people were killed and entire neighborhoods razed in southeastern Turkey in 18 months of government security operations characterized by massive destruction and serious human rights violations, according to a United Nations report released on Friday.

According to Reuters, the UN human rights office said in a report on the period July 2015-December 2016 that up to 500,000 people, mostly Kurds, had been displaced, while satellite imagery showed the “enormous scale of destruction of the housing stock by heavy weaponry.”

UN investigators documented human rights violations including killings, disappearances and torture, often during curfews lasting several days at a time.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in a statement that Turkey, which denied access to the investigators, had “contested the veracity” of the allegations.

“It appears that not a single suspect was apprehended and not a single individual was prosecuted,” Zeid said, adding that an independent investigation was urgently needed.

Zeid’s spokesman, Rupert Colville, said an investigation could be international or Turkish but must be independent and impartial. The UN would continue investigating and might publish reports on Turkey every three months or so, he said, adding that security operations were continuing sporadically.

In a written statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the report was based on “biased, incorrect” information and was “far from professional.”

“We do not accept the unfounded allegations in the report which correspond exactly to the terrorist group’s propaganda,” it said, adding that the report was a clear violation of the impartiality and objectivity required of UN representatives.

It was referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is the target of the Turkish security forces’ operations in the Southeast. Turkey, the United States and European Union designate it as a terrorist group.


Almost 800 of those killed were members of the security forces, and some of the other 1,200 may have been involved in action against the state, the report said.

Among the documented killings were those of up to 189 people trapped for weeks in basements in the town of Cizre in early 2016, without water, food, medical attention or power. They were killed by fire induced by shelling.

One woman’s family was given “three small pieces of charred flesh,” identified by DNA as being her remains. Her sister, who demanded legal action, was charged with terrorist offenses, the report said.

Colville said the death toll figures came from the Turkish government.

“Definitely if the PKK have committed crimes and violations they need to be analyzed and exposed,” Colville said.

“The problem is because there has been this void, really, in investigation, nobody knows the scale of who has done what to whom and the precise details,” he said.

Although Zeid has been invited to Turkey, Colville said a UN investigative team needed to go first and it would be “absurd” to think Zeid’s visit could be a substitute.

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  1. When the law exempting security personnel from prosecution was passed sometime around Dec 2015, it revealed beyond doubt the Government’s intention to commit human right violations on a grand scale. The Opposition as well as the public did not mind Government’s sinister plans specifically designed to intimidate own Kurdish minority (including the Kurdish political movement). Predicting future is fraught with danger but a nation that denies Armenian Genocide is bound to commit another one and this time on defenseless Kurdish civilians.