Saturday 22 October 2016

UN human rights chief: Turkey must probe 'shooting of civilians'

Published 01/02/2016 | 14:27

The UN human rights chief has called on Turkey to investigate the alleged shooting of unarmed people in the country after footage of the incident emerged online.

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Zeid Raad al-Hussein also voiced concern over reports that the cameraman, Refik Tekin, faces arrest over possible charges of membership in the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, when he leaves a hospital where he is treated for gunshot wounds sustained in the shooting in the south-eastern town of Cizre.

Turkish authorities have imposed curfews in Cizre and other towns and districts to flush out militants from urban areas in Turkey's mostly Kurdish south-east since the collapse in July of a peace process with the PKK. The Turkish Human Rights Foundation says at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have died in combat areas under curfew since August.

The video in question purportedly shows people wheeling a dead body on a handcart behind a man and a woman who are waving white flags, before they are apparently targeted by gunfire. Mr Tekin, who works for the pro-Kurdish IMC television, continues to film despite being hit and blood is seen streaming past his camera.

The video does not show who fired the shots but earlier footage had shown a Turkish armoured military vehicle at a distance blocking the road. It was not known if anyone was killed in the shooting.

In a statement released in Geneva, Mr Zeid said: "filming an atrocity is not a crime, but shooting unarmed civilians most certainly is.

"The emergence of this video raises major question marks about what exactly has been going on in Cizre and other parts of south-eastern Turkey which the security forces have allegedly sealed off from the outside world," he said.

The curfews bar independent observers from monitoring the conflicts zones, which has heightened concerns over human rights abuses, including the fate of some 20 people who were reportedly wounded during fighting in Cizre a week ago and were allegedly trapped inside a basement awaiting medical treatment.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other authorities have said medical teams are unable to reach the building where the wounded are stranded due to attacks by militants, including sharp shooters.

A pro-Kurdish party has suggested that it is attacks by the security forces that are preventing the medical teams' access to the wounded. It said it lost contact with the wounded on Saturday and three politicians from the party have embarked on a hunger strike to draw attention to their plight.

There was no immediate Turkish reaction to Mr Zeid's statement, but deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus has said the security forces are taking care to "distinguish between the terror organisation and the civilians and to ensure that the battle is being waged within the rule of law."

The government has vowed to keep up its operations until the militants, who are linked to the PKK, are rooted out from the urban areas. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies.

Press Association

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