Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Police Violence Once More in the Spotlight

From Hurriyet Daily News:
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday accused Turkey's security forces of excessive violence and making routine use of lethal force, urging Ankara to take tougher action against abuses.

The global watchdog warned in a statement that violent police conduct in a string of recent cases "should serve as a wake-up call for the government about the urgent need to do more to combat these abusive practices."

Highlighting three incidents since March, HRW said security forces shot and seriously wounded a reportedly unarmed man in western Turkey, beat a child in the Southeast and shot and killed a child near the Iranian border in an operation against traffickers.

The fact that policemen involved in two of the incidents were suspended from duty "is an important first step," HRW's Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said.

"The key test is whether the investigation will result in those responsible being held to account," she said.

The government should "make clear that lethal force should be an absolute last resort to protect life, and not a routine means to catch a suspect," she said.

Turkey has come under mounting criticism in recent years over heavy-handed action by its security forces, after a notable decrease in complaints in the early 2000s.

Turkey began European Union membership talks in 2005 after a series of reforms that bettered its human rights record, including a marked decline in cases of abuse and torture by law enforcement officers.

But rights campaigners have decried a renewed rise in such cases since legal amendments in 2007, which, they say, gave police broad discretion to use force and encouraged arbitrary stops and searches.
For more on the 2007 amendments and police violence as a systemic problem, see Human Rights Watch's 2008 report and my Dec. 9, 2008 post. For more on the attack on the child in the southeast, see this post at Kamil Pasha.

Relatedly, the Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TIHV) has released a report documenting 12 alleged extra-judicial killings committed between January and March of this year. Bianet provides brief summaries of the cases, as well as three other suspected killings in April.

And, in a cry back to times when things were worse, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently issued a ruling in one of the worst cases of police impunity. The case goes back to 1999 and evidences problems that to some degree continue to this day.

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