Police under scrutiny after deadly incidents in Turkey

Two incidents involving encounters with the police have sparked public criticism of the security forces and their mistreatment of citizens.

Police under scrutiny after deadly incidents in Turkey

Two incidents involving encounters with the police, one in which a citizen died in İstanbul last week and another where a victim became brain dead this week in İzmir, have sparked public criticism of the security forces and their mistreatment of citizens.

Turkey's Human Rights Association's (İHD) İzmir branch head Lütfü Demirkapı said although he does not know the specifics of the incidents, in general almost no day passes without hearing about police violations of human rights.

"Human rights education that the Turkish police force has been receiving is superficial. When policemen become angry, they forget about human rights. We are receiving more complaints from citizens about escalating police violence on the streets," he said, blaming a new law amending the Law on the Powers and Duties of the Police that increases the authority of the police.

The changes made on June 2, 2007 (Law No. 5681) increases the authority of the security forces to stop and search individuals whom they suspect of having committed a crime.

In its July 2007 report concerning human rights practices in Turkey, the New York-based Human Right Watch expressed concern about the effects of the law, saying:

"While it is too early to evaluate the effect of the new law, these wide-ranging new stop and search powers raise concern because there is no mechanism for monitoring their application or preventing their abuse."

İhsan Bal, a security analyst at the International Strategic Research Center based in Ankara, said the issue is multi-dimensional. "First, it's too early to evaluate the effects of the new amendment. We don't have enough data yet to see whether police violence has increased after the new changes. Secondly, even if the security forces have been at fault, the media should not be in a position to pass judgment on the police because an investigation is being carried out. Thirdly, the government should share the results of such investigations with the public to inform the citizens and gain their confidence. And lastly, the police who don't have the tools needed to fight with crimes sometimes -- and wrongly so -- rely on their weapons," Bal said.

He also added that with the European Union reform process, the number of incidents in which citizens have been mistreated has been gradually decreasing.

Interior Minister Beşir Atalay said yesterday in response to journalists' questions that the ministry had appointed an investigator to ascertain the details of the incident in İzmir. "If there is someone who is at fault, he will be punished. The security forces work under difficult circumstances, and with self-sacrifice, but if the police have been found to be at fault, they will be penalized," he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

One incident occurred around 3 a.m. on Sunday as Baran Tursun, 20, tried to escape police pursuit and had an accident in central İzmir. Doctors found a bullet in his head and he has been declared brain dead. He had imbibed alcohol and that after a scuffle with security forces, police fired at him.

According to police accounts, Tursun violated the security forces' calls to stop his vehicle and pointed his car at the police prior to the "warning" shots fired by the police. One of the policemen, O.A., who was involved in stopping Tursun's car has been in custody while the other policeman, V.A., has been released by the prosecutor. Another incident occurred in İstanbul's busy district of Avcılar on Nov. 21 at a community park where two men were reportedly drinking beer when a police patrol approached them as a response to calls from the neighborhood accusing the two of disturbing the peace in the area.

One of the men, Ali Yavuz Oturakçı, described the event as police violence directed at them without proper cause. He said his friend Feyzullah Ete and he were suddenly attacked by the police, who did not even show their badges, and as a result of a karate kick by policeman A.M. to the chest of Ete, Ete lost his life, according to news reports. Afterwards, A.M. was questioned while in police custody and subsequently arrested. He is currently being held at Metris Prison. Demirkapı said they are about to start visiting several police stations in the Aegean province of İzmir to draw attention to human rights violations on the occasion of the approaching Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Kasım 2007, 12:20