U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has accused Ankara of blocking international scrutiny over what it calls widespread human rights violations by Turkish security forces in its crackdown on Kurdish rebels.
The Human Rights Watch report focused on fighting between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels in Cizre. The town is a center of Kurdish nationalism that has witnessed some of the most intense fighting since last year’s collapse of a peace process with the Kurdish rebel group the PKK.
Human Rights Watch report author Emma Sinclair Webb alleges security forces are covering up abuses.
"There are a huge number of civilians who have been killed during security operations. And there is almost no sign of an investigation into these deaths, and there is an attempt to cover up. We were prevented from visiting families who had lost relatives during the security operations," she said.
Turkish security forces say no civilians were killed in 10 months of military operations against the PKK; but, Sinclair Webb says many of the civilian victims were among society's most vulnerable.
“Ince was a 3-month-old baby, who was in her aunt’s arms being carried downstairs in the courtyard of their home and she was shot from a hill where there were snipers positioned, and on military vehicles as well, according to the family. And in an attempt to take the baby to hospital, the family set out on the road holding a white flag and they were fired on again from the same spot on the hillside. Both the baby and the great-grandfather died,” she said.
The government has said any claims of abuse would be investigated. The Human Rights Watch report also highlighted that large parts of Cizre have been razed. The government says all homes destroyed will be rebuilt.
Sinclair Webb also says there was evidence of a massacre of around 130 people seeking refuge from fighting.
“In three basements there were people sheltering," she said. "We know that some of those people were injured, some of them were civilians and the basements were entirely surrounded by the security forces, and there is a big question mark over why everyone in those basements, ended up dead. Why could nobody be evacuated from there?”
In May, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called on Ankara to allow investigation of the basement deaths, a call that has been refused. The government denies charges of a massacre, says the circumstances of the deaths remain unclear.
Human Rights Watch has backed the U.N. call for an international investigation.