Freedom of expression is a right we have to value and protect, which is why I’m joining Amnesty to demand justice for the thousands of peaceful protesters who have been injured due to police violence in Turkey.
The use of excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters is not uncommon in Turkey, but since the clashes in Taksim Square began on May 28th, it has reached unprecedented levels within the country. What began as a small protest against the demolition of one of the last green spaces in Turkey has turned into a national crisis and commanded international attention.
The situation in Turkey is spiraling out of control. Turkish authorities have failed to step in to curb abuses by the police and help their own citizens. Thousands have been injured and that number will continue to rise unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards.
Taksim Square under police control today (Photo Courtesty: Ahmet Şık/ NarPhotos).
I [miss] the days I used social media to connect with my high school friends. In #istanbul, it’s only used to ask “are you safe” these days
So writes one of my friends in Istanbul today after a weekend of some of the most shocking police violence that Turkey has seen in years. It will take many days, weeks, and perhaps years to understand the full cost and ramifications of the storming of Taksim Square that occurred Saturday night.
We do not know yet, for example, how many were injured, but the promiscuous use of water cannon and tear gas against protesters, by-standers, journalists, and medical personnel suggests the numbers will be very large. There are additional reports, which I have not yet been able to confirm, of the use of plastic bullets. Tear gas was hurled into buildings like the Divan Hotel, where people sought refuge. Video footage shows a water cannon was directed at the inner courtyard of the German Hospital down the road from Taksim.
Whether in the public or private spheres, at the hands of state or non-state actors, violence against women in Egypt continues to go mostly unpunished (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images).
By Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Egypt researcher
Violence against women in Egypt gained international attention following a series of sexual assaults on women in the vicinity of Tahrir Square earlier this year during protests commemorating the second anniversary of the “January 25 Revolution.”
Unfortunately, these instances of violence against women were neither isolated nor unique. Whether in the public or private spheres, at the hands of state or non-state actors, violence against women in Egypt continues to go mostly unpunished.
Most cases go unreported for a plethora of reasons. Even when women do turn to state institutions for protection, justice and reparation, they are often confronted with dismissive or abusive officials who fail to refer cases to prosecution or trial and lengthy and expensive court proceedings if they want to get divorced. Women who do manage to obtain a divorce then face the likelihood that court orders for child support or spousal maintenance will not be enforced.
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.
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.
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.
Police reportedly used tear gas on May 28 to disperse a group protesting the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul. This was just one of many recent instances where Turkish police have used excessive force to repress peaceful protests (Photo Credit: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images).
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.
A 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.
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.