The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights (ELDH) has called on the Turkish government to end its crackdown on those demanding an investigation into allegations of chemical weapon use in northern Iraq, and release activists and civil society figures detained in relation.
There is no basis to prosecute the organisations and individuals who have voiced the need for an independent investigation, the ELDH said, adding that Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar himself had confirmed the military’s use of tear gas in northern Iraq.
Tear gas is not among the chemicals strictly prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), however, there are conditions under which its use could be considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the lawyers said. That alone would warrant an investigation, according to the ELDH.
While Turkey has ratified the CWC, the country is not party to the Rome Statute.
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is among the institutions that call for an independent investigation. As IPPNW Switzerland’s Jan Van Aken told Medya News in an interview, while the available evidence is not conclusive, there is enough evidence to warrant further probing.
The ELDH urged OPCW member states to demand an investigation by the OPCW and the United Nations.
A formal investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the enforcing body of the CWC, requires a request from an OPCW member state.
At least 11 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey for their coverage of allegations brought forth by the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In mid-October, the People’s Defence Forces (HPG) released a video showing Kurdish fighters seizing and delirious, reportedly under the influence of banned chemicals.
Forensic specialist Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Chair of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), was arrested on 26 October and sent to prison shortly after over her comments on a live broadcast that the allegations necessitated an independent investigation.
Aryen Turan, a lawyer from the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) was also detained over her speech at the Izmir Bar Association General Assembly, demanding that the use of chemicals be investigated. She was later released with a foreign travel ban.