The deaths of 13 prisoners during Turkish airstrikes in the Garê region in Iraqi Kurdistan have led to heated debates about how they were killed and whether the Geneva Conventions were breached.
Thirteen Turkish soldiers, police officers and intelligence personnel who were held as prisoners in People’s Defence Forces (HPG) camps were killed during the ‘Claw-Eagle 2′ military operation in the Garê region of Iraqi Kurdistan that was launched on 10 February. On 14 February, the Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar issued a statement announcing the end of the operation and blamed the PKK forces for the deaths of the thirteen prisoners.
However, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) stated that the deaths were caused by airstrikes during Turkey’s military operation. The HPG has also alleged that chemical gas weapons were used by Turkey’s military forces during its Gare (Garê) operations in Siyanê camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the thirteen Turkish soldiers and personnel were being held as prisoners.
Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Executive Council Member Zübeyir Aydar has also invited international and independent institutions to research the claims of the Turkish state. International analysts have additionally questioned the basis of the Turkish government’s claims.
In a recent interview. the PKK Executive Committee member Duran Kalkan stated that most of the prisoners “were there for five to six years, being protected and all by the HPG and YJA-STAR guerrillas. If they meant to shoot them, why would they keep them alive for five years? I can say, the HGP has looked after and protected their people for years”.
Both Turkey and the PKK are bound by Article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions that provides for the minimum standard to be respected. It requires humane treatment and prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, hostage taking and unfair trials. The third Geneva Convention provides a wide range of protection for prisoners of war, setting down detailed rules for their treatment and eventual release.
On 24 January 1995, the PKK issued a statement at a press conference in Geneva, where it declared that “in its conflict with the Turkish state forces, the PKK undertakes to respect the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the First Protocol of 1977 regarding the conduct of hostilities and the protection of the victims of war and to treat those obligations as having the force of law within its own forces and the areas within its control”.