Alarming Increase in Police Violence and Abusive Force Against Peaceful Protestors in Turkey

Press Release
June 3, 2013

Alarming Increase in Police Violence and Abusive Force Against Peaceful Protestors in Turkey

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Amnesty International continues to be concerned for the health of injured members of the public following unprecedented and abusive use of force by police officers against protesters in cities across Turkey. According to the rights group, the number of activists injured will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.

Amnesty International is alarmed at the increase in the levels of police violence - both targeted against individuals as well as the widespread abusive use of force against crowds - calling on Turkish authorities to ensure that unnecessary force is not used against peaceful protestors.

"Three days after the start of an unprecedented wave of police repression against protesters, the Turkish authorities have shown little remorse and no indication of a change in police tactics," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia program director at Amnesty International. "It is essential that the Turkish authorities take action to stop police violence and learn the lessons for policing demonstrations in the future. They must also publish a full list of those injured after the protests, the nature of their injuries and ensure those responsible are held accountable."

On Monday, police continued to use force against peaceful demonstrators, with reports of excessive force against hundreds of demonstrators in Ankara, Turkey's capital. In addition to the extensive and inappropriate use of teargas and water cannons against nonviolent activists, Amnesty International has seen a growing body of evidence of police brutality. Amateur video footage taken on mobile phones at the scene of demonstrations has shown police officers kicking seemingly defenseless protestors and beating them with batons.

The Turkish Medical Association told Amnesty International that as many as 1,500 people injured during the police response to protests have been treated in hospitals across the city over the past two days. Two had life threatening injuries, while five remain in intensive care as a result of the injuries sustained. Earlier reports that at least two protesters died as a result of participating in demonstrations on June 1 in Istanbul were proven to be unfounded.

In Ankara, the number of injured demonstrators is reported as at least 414, with 15 individuals sustaining serious injuries. According to information from the Izmir Medical Association, over the past two days, 420 people were admitted to the western city's hospitals.

The medical association also reported that many of the injuries have been caused by the police using water cannons and firing teargas canisters at demonstrators raising concerns that many people have lost their eyesight as a result of such tactics.

"We're particularly concerned about the use of teargas in confined spaces where it represents a major threat to health," said Dalhuisen. "The authorities must ensure that in the case of violent demonstrations police intervene only where strictly necessary to protect the public and property, in line with international human rights standards. Amnesty International also calls on protesters not to engage in violence."

Amnesty International urges Turkish authorities to launch prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the policing of the demonstrations and to make the findings public. International human rights standards, in particular the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, should be the benchmark under which policing of the demonstrations are investigated.

The abusive use of force against demonstrators and the ensuing outcry from members of the public should act as a lesson for the policing of further demonstrations in line with Turkey's obligation to respect human rights including the right to peaceful assembly.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.