Turkey: the use of force against peaceful demonstrators must stop immediately

[05/06/2013 12:00]  I am following with serious concern the situation in Turkey, where the extremely disproportionate use of force by the police against demonstrators in Gezi Park has sparked demonstrations in many Turkish provinces.

The use of force against peaceful demonstrators must stop immediately and the Turkish authorities must ensure that their handling of the situation fully complies with human rights standards.

The recent statements of President Gül and Deputy Prime Minister Arınç, acknowledging the responsibility of the police in the escalation, are a constructive first step to calm tensions. In order to re-establish trust, it is now necessary that the Turkish authorities build on this basis by effectively investigating all allegations of human rights violations in order to establish the truth and punish those law enforcement officials responsible for such violations.

It is also crucial to communicate reliable official figures about demonstrators who have been injured or taken into custody, in order to stop rumours and misinformation. Treatment of demonstrators taken into police custody will be an important factor in this process, and must comply with the highest degree of safeguards, including by ensuring access to a lawyer, prompt medical examination and video-recording of interrogations.

I acknowledge the difficulty of policing in such high-tension situations, but given the circumstances, the Turkish police needs to exercise extreme restraint in order to de-escalate tensions. I also call on the demonstrators to ensure that demonstrations remain peaceful.

In parallel to this process, Turkish authorities need to establish genuine channels of dialogue with civil society, and I welcome and fully support the announcement of Deputy Prime Minister Arınç that he will enter into dialogue with organisations who have challenged the project concerning Gezi Park before courts.

The events of the past days have also revealed the urgency of eliminating the root causes of police violence in Turkey, which is a long-standing problem as established in many judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. I stand ready to provide my assistance on this issue to the Turkish authorities.