Urgent Action Needed in Turkey to Stop Police Violence

Since May 31, more than 4,000 protesters have been injured as Turkish police continue to use excessive force in an attempt to disperse them. Amnesty International has seen a growing body of evidence of police brutality, including extensive use of teargas and water cannons against nonviolent protesters. Video footage taken at the scene of demonstrations has shown police officers kicking visibly defenseless protesters and even beating them with batons.

During the first days of the crisis, Amnesty International’s office, located in the heart of the Istanbul protest zone, stayed open around the clock, while volunteer doctors treated injured protesters. Amnesty staff and volunteers have risked their personal safety to document abuses and ensure that the world receives accurate information about the events unfolding in Turkey.


What Next for U.S. Drone Policy?

The CIA knew neither the identity nor the affiliation of about one in four people it killed in drone strikes, an NBC News report released yesterday found. The news agency reviewed classified CIA documents describing U.S. strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan over a 14-month period starting in September 2010. The news report underscores the need for independent and impartial investigations into allegations of unlawful killings, as Amnesty has repeatedly sought.

By Naureen Shah, co-author of The Civilian Impact of Drone Strikes: Unexamined Costs, Unanswered Questions

In a major speech on national security last month, President Obama for the first time spoke at length about drone strikes. (See Amnesty International’s in-depth analysis, “Words, War, and the Rule of Law“). He called civilian casualties “heartbreaking tragedies” that will “haunt us as long as we live.” He said his administration had put in place a standard for using lethal force that “respects the inherent dignity of every human life.” These welcome words must be followed up by strong actions: greater transparency with the public, investigations of deaths, accountability for illegal killings, and compliance with the law.


What You Can Do NOW to Stop the Abuse of Protestors in Turkey

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister's office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

A protester covers her face during clashes with Turkish police near the prime minister’s office in Istanbul (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images).

In Turkey, a major human rights crisis looms.  Here is what an update on what you can do about it.

The Crisis

As protests continue to rock Turkish cities, Amnesty International has warned that injuries due to “police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.” Police excesses have been “disgraceful,” Amnesty says. The number of those injured by excessive police force is as yet unknown, but is believed to be in the thousands. Many of the injuries have been serious. There are as yet unconfirmed reports of deaths.


The Road Forward in Egypt Begins By Ending Police Impunity

Egyptian protesters shout slogans against President Mohamed Morsi during a demonstration outside the high court in central Cairo on January 30, 2013.

Egyptian protesters shout slogans against President Mohamed Morsi during a demonstration outside the high court in central Cairo on January 30, 2013. (Photo KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Before Egypt tears itself apart, it must get out under the shadow of the Mubarak years.  The way forward begins with breaking the culture of impunity that protects security forces and police from accountability for their abuses.

Amnesty International has long feared that the failure of the Morsi government to hold security forces and military accountable for their past human rights abuses ensured that those abuses would be repeated when the government called on those institutions to respond to the popular protests.

Sure enough, reporting from Egypt, Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy documented evidence that points to the use of excessive force by Egyptian security officials. 


Trying Troops in Civilian Courts = Big Step for Human Rights in Mexico

Mexican soldiers © Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images

historic Mexican Supreme Court decision to ensure soldiers accused of human rights abuses against civilians be tried in civilian – not military – courts may bring Mexico closer to respecting human rights and fulfilling their Merida Initiative obligations.

In 2008, the Merida Initiative security assistance package was signed by then-US President George W. Bush. This unprecedented partnership between the United States and Mexico aims to fight organized crime and associated violence while respecting human rights.


Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers Endorsed in Geneva

On Tuesday, November 9, 58 private security companies signed an International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers. The signatories included major U.S. based firms, such as Triple Canopy, DynCorp, EODT, and even Xe (formerly known as Blackwater). The Code seeks to address the human rights impact of security providers and among its standards are rules for the use of force, prohibitions on child and forced labor, human trafficking, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and commitments regarding the vetting and training of personnel and the reporting of incidents of the use of force.

The participants reflect a multi-stakeholder group representing governments, companies and their trade associations, civil society groups, and experts and academics, many of whom were involved in the 14 month process to develop the Code facilitated by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. This Code initiative is distinguishable from other voluntary efforts to date to create standards for companies in that its goal is to have the clients of private security providers – both governments and non-state clients like humanitarian aid organizations and other companies – include requirements to adhere to the Code in their contract vehicles.

The British government has already committed to making this a requirement for its contracted security, and the U.S. government is currently contemplating doing the same according to U.S. Department of State legal advisor Harold Koh. This would lend these voluntary standards some real teeth, as the human rights commitments made by the signatory firms could be upheld in courts of law. Furthermore, it represents an important advancement in the recognition by a global industry of the obligations of firms to uphold human rights wherever they operate.

However, the credibility of this initiative will hinge on the nature of the external independent mechanisms for effective governance and oversight. OMB Watch and some non-governmental organizations have warned of the shortcomings of any mechanism of reporting the incidents of the use of force that relies on self-reporting. Humans rights groups, such as Human Rights Advocates, Right Respect, and other human rights groups have endorsed the Code, but warn that the Code not be viewed as a substitute for the development of binding legal instruments to ensure that private security firms are held accountable for their actions.