UN rights office calls on Turkish government to ensure freedom of assembly

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: OHCHR

4 June 2013 – The United Nations human rights office urged the Government of Turkey to guarantee that its citizens have the right to assemble freely and in a peaceful manner, following days of violent clashes between protestors and police.

“We are concerned about reports of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers against protestors who initially gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the redevelopment of the historic Taksim square – an important venue for political protests – and Gezi Park, and against others who joined demonstrations to support them throughout Turkey,” the spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Cécile Pouilly, told reporters in Geneva.

Since the protests began on Friday in Istanbul before spreading to Ankara, the capital, a high number of people have reportedly been arrested and hundreds have been injured throughout Turkey.

Riot police also used tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons against peaceful protesters, which prompted attacks on authorities. Government officials later conceded that a disproportionate amount of force was used during the demonstrations.

“We welcome the acknowledgment on the part of authorities that disproportionate force may have been used and their call for an investigation of law enforcement officers who are alleged to have broken the law and violated international human rights standards,” Ms. Pouilly said. “Such investigations should be prompt, thorough, independent and impartial, and perpetrators should be brought to justice.”

Ms. Pouilly stressed that all those injured must have prompt access to medical care, and human rights safeguards must be upheld to avoid unlawful or arbitrary detentions.

“We call on the Government of Turkey to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is fully respected and urge protestors to ensure that demonstrations remain peaceful,” she said. “We encourage the authorities to enter into a genuine dialogue with the civil society, including neighbourhood associations, on the urban projects in the Taksim square and Gezi Park.”


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