An aerial shot of Cizre. (Photo: AFP)
4 March 2016
Members of human rights organisations are visiting war-torn Kurdish district Cizre following the recent siege and martial lockdown by Turkish state forces.
The 24-hour curfew was eased on the devastated town after state forces brought operations to an end following the killing of at least 178 people in three basements. Taking this opportunity to visit the district, members of the Human Rights Association (IHD) and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) were shocked with what they saw.
TIHV General Secretary Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı said, “As someone who followed the period of war in Bosnia closely I can say that the situation in Cizre is much worse. There are still bones belonging to children in the basements. This is an attempted genocide.”
The delegation began their investigation in the Cudi Neighbourhood, where the most intense clashes took place, and visited the three basements in which wounded people were executed and burned alive. Examining the destruction, the delegation spoke to witnesses and took photographs of human remains.
Civilians were killed
Speaking here Fincancı said, “The situation in Cizre surpasses Bosnia. There were people who were armed and fighting in Bosnia and other places in the world, but the people in these basements were all civilians. We found bones belonging to children in here.”
Adding that they’d found a jawbone belonging to a child of 9 or 10 Fincancı stated, “In Bosnia they found bones belonging to adults and mass graves. But here we are talking about children being burned alive. The state has committed a crime. Since we cannot talk of another state using tanks and tank shells here, it must be this (the Turkish) state that has done it.”
“There was peace here…”
Fincancı recalled her last visit to Cizre in October 2015 and compared her experiences by saying; “I sat in these streets and drank tea with people. There was peace here. But now, these streets have all been destroyed and turned into rubble. People’s habitats have been wiped out. It is extremely distressing.”
“This is an attempted genocide”
Saying war crimes had been committed in the district Fincancı emphasised the importance of independent investigations. “Because we are talking of a crime committed by the state, investigations need to be carried out by independent delegations. The crimes committed here are going to be tried at international courts. These are crimes against humanity. Statute of limitations does not apply to these crimes. This is complete savagery.”
Violation of the Minnesota Protocol
Fincancı also drew attention to the International Minnesota Protocol for the prevention and investigation of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions and stated, “When human rights organisations request that a state be tried for war crimes they present the Minnesota Protocol as a guideline. The investigation here needs to be carried out according to this protocol. All the evidence needs to be collected accordingly. The state has not adhered to this protocol.”
Human Rights Organisation (IHD) General Secretary Öztürk Türkdoğan also made a statement and said the situation was worse than they’d imagined. “We made many efforts to save the wounded people in the basements, but to no avail. The European Court of Human Rights must immediately send a rapporteur here. The crimes committed are certainly going to be punished.”