Turkish security forces have shot and burned civilians to death in the mostly Kurdish south-east of the country, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Tuesday, citing reports delivered to the United Nations and demanding access to the region.
The UN high commissioner for human rights acknowledged Tuesday that Turkey has the duty to prevent attacks by militants affiliated with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), but he pointed out that international law bans the use of excessive force in counterterrorism operations.
Fighting between the state and Kurdish militants restarted last year after a two-year ceasefire collapsed. Kurds in Turkey have long complained of systemic discrimination. Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist group.
Zeid said more and more credible reports had been emerging about the situation in Cizre, a Kurdish town in the east that was under a strict, round-the-clock curfew between December and March.
Civilians, including women and children, were allegedly shot from military vehicles, tortured and detained, while medical personnel were prevented from doing their work, according to these reports.
“Most disturbing of all are the reports quoting witnesses and relatives in Cizre, which suggest that more than 100 people were burned to death as they sheltered in three different basements that had been surrounded by security forces,” Zeid said.
The government in Ankara has so far not granted UN rights experts and other UN staff access to visit the region to collect information, despite official UN requests.
While information has been emerging from Cizre, other Kurdish towns and areas are still effectively shut off from the outside world due to heavy presence by Turkish security forces, according to the UN rights office.
“This blackout simply fuels suspicions about what has been going on," Zeid said, demanding access for UN staff, civil society groups and journalists.