Amnesty calls for inquiry into killing of Kurds

Issue 

Amnesty calls for inquiry into killing of Kurds Amnesty International has called for an immediate, independent and impartial inquiry into the events in Sirnak between August 18 and 21, when at least 15 civilians, including five children, were killed. Security forces fired, apparently indiscriminately, for 48 hours on the city and neighbouring villages. The organisation has asked that the findings of the inquiry be made public.

In government statements it was initially claimed that the security forces' actions were in response to a large-scale attack on government and military buildings by 1500 guerrillas of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). However, this figure was repeatedly revised downwards, and it appears that no guerillas nor any of the heavy weapons purportedly used by them in the attack were captured.

Journalists and politicians visiting the area have been obstructed in their efforts to establish what happened. It appears that the incident may have been triggered by a brief initial attack on August 18 from within the city, during which members of the security forces were killed, Amnesty said. The security forces then responded massively by shelling and firing for 48 hours, reportedly expending hundreds of thousands of bullets.

Refugees fleeing the city were quoted as saying that security forces had deliberately crashed into cars and buildings with tanks, broken into shops and set fire to houses. Members of the local branch of the ruling True Path Party who were in their party building at the time described being fired on by a tank.

Although much of the city was seriously damaged, and many houses wholly or partially destroyed, observers state that government buildings, the police headquarters and civil servants' residential blocks were largely unharmed.

Approximately 20,000 inhabitants have fled from the city and are now staying in other towns in south-east Turkey or in makeshift camps some distance from the city.

The killings in Sirnak are the most recent in a succession of incidents which have occurred since the new government took over in November. More than 100 civilians, including many women, children and elderly persons, have been killed in incidents in which it was clear that security forces either killed civilians who were offering no violence, or failed properly to establish targets.

On March 5 police marched in Sirnak shouting slogans such as "Blood for blood" and "Sirnak will be the grave of the Kurds", and allegedly caused considerable damage to property in the city. The government did not appear to react in any way to this incident, and two weeks later, five children and two elderly people were among at least 30 civilians killed during disturbances at the time of the Kurdish New Year.

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