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Turkey: Human rights commissioner says rogue police officers must be punished

Human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks has urged Turkey’s authorities to punish rogue police officers guilty of misconduct.

“All instances of excessive use of force by the police must be fully investigated and adequately punished” he said at the end of a five day visit to Istanbul and Ankara, during which he discussed the Gezi Park events and other human rights issues.

The Commissioner for Human Rights revealed that he had received serious allegations of human rights violations committed by law enforcement forces against demonstrators, backed up by witness accounts, photos, videos, forensic evidence, as well as the number of deaths and injuries over the course of the events.

Most of these reports concerned excessive and improper use of tear gas, and ill-treatment by police at the time of apprehension. On the other hand, members of the government and security forces considered that the use of force had been proportionate in view of the actions of marginal groups hijacking the demonstrations, except for isolated incidents which are under investigation.

The commissioner cited European Court of Human Rights case law, declaring that the failure to effectively investigate the misconduct of security forces was a human rights violation in itself. He also stated that Turkey had already been condemned on numerous occasions by the court on such grounds.

Muižnieks added that those demonstrators who resorted to violence must also face justice but stressed that it must be the “absolute priority of every democratic state” to safeguard the trust of their citizens in law enforcement by combating impunity.

He added: “The only way to bridge this gap in perceptions and to allow the healing process Turkey needs, is to conduct independent, impartial, and effective investigations with the involvement of victims into all allegations of misconduct by security forces, in accordance with the clear guidelines of the Strasbourg Court.

“Given Turkey’s track record before the Court, this requires a novel approach and determination by all relevant actors.”

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