STRASBOURG—The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights has said the excessive use of force during the Gezi protests should not go unpunished.
“All instances of excessive use of force by the police must be fully investigated and adequately punished,” said Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights at the end of a five-day visit to Istanbul and Ankara, during which he discussed the Gezi Park protests and other human rights issues.
The commissioner recalled that, according to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the failure to effectively investigate the misconduct of security forces was a human rights violation in itself, and that Turkey had been condemned on numerous occasions by the court precisely for this reason.
The commissioner had received serious allegations of human rights violations committed by law enforcement forces against demonstrators, backed up by witness accounts, photos, videos and 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 the use of force proportionate in view of the actions of marginal groups hijacking the demonstrations, except for isolated incidents which are under investigation.
“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,” said the commissioner.
The commissioner added that those demonstrators who resorted to violence must obviously also face the consequences of their actions, but said it must be the absolute priority of every democratic state to safeguard the trust of their citizens in law enforcement by combating impunity.