Police forces use pepper spray to disperse protesters who gathered in Ankara to commemorate Berkin Elvan, 15-year-old boy, died a year after being hit by a teargas canister fired by the police during last summer’s Gezi protests, (Photo: Today’s Zaman, Ali Ünal)
An international human rights watchdog has called on South Korea to stop a planned shipment of large amounts of tear gas to Turkey, which it said abuses the use of riot control equipment during mass protests.
In a press release Amnesty International (AI) issued on its website on Monday, it said South Korea is planning to ship around 1.9 million tear gas cartridges and gas grenades to Turkey and the first delivery will take place in mid-January, citing an anonymous and credible source.
“All shipments of tear gas and other riot control equipment to Turkey must be suspended immediately or they risk fuelling further repression and abuses,” Marek Marczynski, head of Military, Security and Police at AI said, according to the release.
The human rights organization asked South Korean authorities to send a clear and urgent message that it won’t send any arms to Turkey “where abusive and arbitrary force is being used against protesters.”
“Turkey has a woeful record of misusing tear gas during demonstrations, frequently firing gas canisters directly at protesters. No responsible government should be fuelling abuses on this scale,” Marczynski was quoted as saying.
The human rights organization said that 1,898,515 “less lethal” chemical irritants — 1,509,015 tear gas cartridges ranging from four different sizes and 389,500 gas grenades — will be delivered to Turkey. While the first part of the shipment, which contains 550,000 items, is scheduled to be in Turkey in mid-January, the rest of it will be delivered by mid-May, AI said.
Amnesty cited the 2013 Gezi Park protests and May Day demonstrations in Turkey, during which riot police repeatedly used abusive and arbitrary force against peaceful protesters. It underlined that at least four demonstrators died due to the police’s use of excessive force, including two people who were hit in the head by tear gas canisters.
“Right now, no government should be supplying the Turkish authorities with the tools to crush further peaceful demonstrations. All transfers of tear gas and other riot control equipment must be suspended until the Turkish authorities can ensure such repression will not be repeated, and commit to carrying out thorough, impartial and independent investigations into past abuses by the security forces,” Marczynski said.
The way Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) handled the nationwide protests of last year drew harsh criticism from international human rights organizations as well as European Union officials. During the Gezi Park protests, which broke out at the end of May 2013, thousands were injured and some died due to police violence involving tear gas and tear gas canisters. Organizations at home and abroad accused the government of committing human rights violations on a large scale during the protests, which started because of environmentalist concerns to protect a green space in the heart of İstanbul.
During the almost one-month-long Gezi protests, which spread all across Turkey, more than 10,000 people were injured, with some losing an eye, due to the excessive use of tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets, based on data from the Ankara-based Human Rights Association (İHD). According to the Taksim Solidarity Platform, in just the first 15 days of protests, the police had used 150,000 gas bombs.