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Call for Turkish Prime Minister to step in to end 'disgraceful' use of excessive police force during ongoing protests

  • Amnesty's office in Istanbul being used as makeshift medical centre

Urgent steps must be taken by the Turkish authorities to prevent further deaths and injuries and to allow protesters access to their fundamental rights in ongoing protests in Istanbul, Amnesty International said this afternoon.

Amnesty observers at the protests have witnessed the use of water cannon against peaceful protesters as well as those throwing stones at police.  The testimonies of protesters, lawyers and medical professionals at the scene and video evidence confirm this as a widespread tactic employed by the police at demonstrations continuing across central Istanbul.

According to reports, more than a thousand protesters have been injured and at least two have died.

Amnesty has kept its office, which is close to the Taksim area, open as a safe haven for protesters escaping police violence. Twenty doctors are currently in the office and treating injured protestors. Other civil society organisations have taken similar actions.

Despite the growing crisis Turkish authorities are showing no sign that they will change course or take the required steps to ensure the security of the demonstrators and of members of the public in general.

Amnesty has launched an urgent call to its activists across the world to take action on Turkey. Amnesty is calling on Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to step in immediately and stop police violence. Ill-treatment on arrest and in detention must end, access to medical care must be ensured. An independent and effective investigation into the violence must be carried out.

Amnesty International Europe Director John Dalhusien said:

“Excessive use of force by police officers can be routine in Turkey but the excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful. It has hugely inflamed the situation on the streets of Istanbul where scores of people have been injured.

"It is clear that the use of force by police is being driven not by the need to respond to violence - of which there has been very little on the part of protesters - but by a desire to prevent and discourage protest of any kind.

"The Turkish authorities must allow peaceful protest to proceed, urgently revise police tactics and investigate - and hold accountable - those responsible for the abuses we are seeing."

Inappropriate use of tear gas:

The inappropriate use of tear gas by police has been the most devastating on the safety of demonstrators, causing an unknown number of injuries, including serious head injuries when the canisters hit protesters. Hundreds of empty tear gas canisters remain on the ground in areas where demonstrations are taking place.

On a number of occasions police were seen deliberately targeting individual protesters with tear gas canisters. A number of protesters are thought to have lost their sight as a result of the use of tear gas at close range.

Tear gas has also been used in confined areas where it is especially dangerous to health. In some cases tear gas was fired directly into homes and businesses that had opened their doors to fleeing protesters. Reports also state that tear gas was fired close to the entrance of Taksim Emergency Hospital, close to the scene of many protests.

Amnesty has received reports that some protesters detained last night were held for up to 12 hours in hot and overcrowded police vehicles without access to food, water or toilet facilities. The organisation has received 49 complaints from individuals alleging ill-treatment by police against while in detention.

Denial of access to medical care:

Amnesty has also received information that injured demonstrators in detention and on the streets have been prevented from accessing appropriate medical care. Lawyers told Amnesty that injured protesters were apprehended by police and taken to police stations when they needed hospital treatment. Once in detention they could not access appropriate medical care.

Attempts by the Istanbul Medical Chamber to establish temporary medical facilities to treat injured protesters on the street have been hampered by the constant use of tear gas by the police in areas where demonstrations are taking place. Amnesty was also told that police security measures have prevented many injured protesters from accessing the nearby Taksim Emergency Hospital.

Reacting to the demands for medical treatment nearby private hospitals have opened their doors to injured protesters and calls have gone out to doctors to report for work.

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