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Report Alleges Human Rights Violations by Police in Turkey

  • Dorian Jones

The U.S.-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch has published a report critical of Turkey, claiming that there had been a rise in police violence that had gone unpunished. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

The report titled "Closing Ranks Against Accountability Barriers to Tackling Police Violence in Turkey," documents 28 cases of alleged police abuse since early 2007. The cases include fatal and non-fatal shootings by the police along with what Human Rights Watch calls "excessive use of violence" at demonstrations.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, says that while Turkey has made progress in recent years, the latest findings indicate a worrying trend.

"Turkey has gone a long way to reducing torture in police stations. But what we have noticed, we have an increase in violence outside the police stations - that is, the police dealing with demonstrations violently in the course of arrest of a fleeing suspect or even violence in the course of stopping of a suspect for questioning," he said.

Report signals insufficient controls over use of fatal force

The report highlights what Human Rights Watch says is a culture of unaccountability in Turkey's police and security forces. The report also says there are insufficient controls over the use of fatal force and calls for clearer guidelines. Other recommendations include an independent body to investigate allegations of police abuse.

Kenneth Roth says he has received a mixed response to the report from the Turkish government.

"At the level of the Interior Ministry, we received fairly positive signals that there is awareness of the problem and the determination to deal with it. But on the flip side, the most senior official we met was the [Minister of State and] Deputy Prime Minister Mr. [Cemil] Cicek, who ostensibly was responsible for human rights. But it was not clear to me whether he was responsible for protecting human rights or violating them, because he brought an attitude that was utterly contemptuous of the concerns we are raising," said Roth.

Many experts say this latest Human Rights Watch report will fuel the debate over Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Earlier this week, the European Parliament discussed a provisional report on Turkey's accession that expressed concern that progress on EU reforms have been stalled.