Turkey: Failure to respond to desperate pleas of seriously injured

More than 20 residents sheltering in basement for six days

Building a few hundred metres from medical centre 

Round-the-clock curfews imposed in Kurdish neighbourhoods 

The Turkish authorities are failing to respond to the desperate pleas of more than 20 injured residents sheltering for six days in the basement of a building that has been under fire and heavy shelling in the south-east town of Cizre, said Amnesty International today.

An estimated 23 people are stranded in a building’s basement in the town of Cizre, Şırnak province, where they sought shelter on 23 January amid ongoing clashes between the army and the armed individuals affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Amnesty spoke to one of the people in the basement who said that four others had already died and a further 12 were seriously injured, while the building continued to be hit by shells.

Communications have since been cut but it is believed that six people have now died. 

The building is only a few hundred metres from a medical centre. However, the Turkish authorities say that it is not safe to send ambulances to the location which is under 24-hour curfew. 

Amnesty International’s Turkey Researcher Andrew Gardner said: 

“This is a desperate situation: injured individuals, some of whom are apparently bleeding heavily, are at grave risk of dying if they do not urgently receive medical care.

“Lives are dangling in the balance and it defies belief that the authorities cannot find a solution. Whatever the circumstances which led to these men’s injuries, they have a right to receive life-saving medical treatment and the state should facilitate, not impede, such care.” 

According to the lawyer representing the injured, it is impossible for them to leave the building due to shelling by the security forces.

An application was filed to the European Court of Human Rights on 23 January on behalf of the injured, requesting that an interim measure is granted requiring the Turkish authorities to take every possible step to provide urgent medical care. On 26 January the Court urged the government to take appropriate measures to protect the lives of the applicants, while requesting further information and urging an application to be made to Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has yet to issue a judgment. 

Round-the-clock curfews have been imposed across Kurdish neighbourhoods in the east and south-east of Turkey after the peace process between the government and PKK broke down in July 2015. 

More than 150 residents have reportedly been killed in areas under curfew as state forces clash with armed individuals affiliated to the PKK. The dead include women, young children and the elderly. The town of Cizre has been subjected to round-the-clock curfews since 14 December with residents reporting cuts to essential services such as water and electricity. 

Andrew Gardner added:

“The refusal of the Turkish authorities to ensure access to medical care is indefensible. While it is perfectly legitimate for them to take measures to ensure security and arrest suspects, this operation shows a callous disregard for human life.” 

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