Amnesty International has issued a press statement today (June 1) describing the excessive force used by Turkish police as “disgraceful” and calling on Turkish authorities to take “urgent steps to… to prevent further deaths and injuries and allow protestors access to their fundamental rights, as well as ensuring the security of all members of the public.”
The release noted that “Amnesty International kept its office… open as a safe haven for protestors escaping police violence throughout the night” and described widespread police abuse:
Amnesty International observers at the protests witnessed the use of water cannon against peaceful protestors as well as those throwing stones at police.
The testimonies of protestors, lawyers and medical professionals at the scene and video evidence confirm this as a widespread tactic employed by the police at demonstrations continuing across central Istanbul.
According to reports, more than a thousand protestors have been injured and at least two have died.
The press release particularly highlighted the extensive and indiscriminate use of tear gas:
The inappropriate use of tear gas by police has been the most devastating on the safety of demonstrators, causing an unknown number of injuries, including serious head injuries when the canisters hit protestors. Hundreds of empty tear gas canisters remain on the ground in areas where demonstrations are taking place.
On a number of occasions police were seen deliberately targeting individual protestors with tear gas canisters. A number of protestors are thought to have lost their sight as a result of the use of tear gas at close range.
Tear gas has also been used in confined areas where it is especially dangerous to health. In some cases tear gas was fired directly into homes and businesses that had opened their doors to fleeing protestors. Reports also state that tear gas was fired close to the entrance of Taksim Emergency Hospital.
John Dalhusien, Director of Amnesty International for Europe, notes that
Excessive use of force by police officers can be routine in Turkey but the excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful. It has hugely inflamed the situation on the streets of Istanbul where scores of people have been injured…
It is clear that the use of force by police is being driven not by the need to respond to violence – of which there has been very little on the part of protesters – but by a desire to prevent and discourage protest of any kind.
Despite evidence that police violence has, at least for the moment, subsided in Taksim Square, reports from elsewhere in Turkey suggest that the crackdown continues. Amnesty has, for example, received reports that police are using rubber bullets against protesters in Ankara.
Amnesty has called upon “Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to step in immediately and stop police violence. Ill-treatment on arrest and in detention must end, access to medical care must be ensured.”
It has also called on activists worldwide to take action on Turkey. No matter where you are, you can help support the right of freedom of expression in Turkey. You can help fight the state violence currently being inflicted on Turkey’s own citizens.