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451 civilians in Turkey killed by police since 2007: Report

July 18,  2024

A total of 451 civilians, including children, have been killed by police from 2007 through the first half of 2024, according to a report by the Baran Tursun Foundation, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Thursday.

The report highlights that half of the victims were children and young people, with 223 individuals aged 0-25 killed by police gunfire, police vehicle collisions or tear gas.

The province of Şırnak recorded the highest number of deaths, with 68 fatalities. İstanbul saw 54 deaths, Diyarbakır had 34, Mardin reported 21 and İzmir recorded 19.

The data also shows that of the 451 individuals killed, 290 were in provinces with significant Kurdish populations. Similarly, among the 98 children killed, 90 were from such provinces.

“Many of these deaths occurred while people were walking on the street, going to school or the market, sitting in parks, sleeping in their beds or being held by their mothers,” said Mehmet Tursun, president of the Baran Tursun Foundation.

Tursun emphasized that numerous people were shot for violating minor laws or not complying with police orders.

Tursun attributed the increase in deaths to a policy of impunity.

“In police academies, acquittals and decisions that result in no punishment are presented as part of their training. Graduating officers who see these rulings believe they can kill without facing consequences,” Tursun said.

Human rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish judiciary of affording impunity to law enforcement officers accused of involvement in incidents of disproportionate use of force, misconduct, mistreatment and torture, sometimes despite substantial evidence.

Many say there is no longer a separation of powers in the country and that members of the judiciary are under the control of the government and cannot make judgments based on the law.

Turkey was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in October, dropping one rank in comparison to the previous year.

Tursun also pointed to the Internal Security Law, passed by parliament on March 27, 2015, which expanded police powers. Tursun noted that this law codified subjective concepts like “foreseeable suspicion” and discretionary authority, forming the basis for impunity.

“A police officer may use deadly force if they foresee a threat, such as suspecting a person with their hand in their pocket might have a bomb. When these officers are taken to court, they justify their actions by claiming it was their ‘foreseeable suspicion.’ This results in no penalties for the officers involved,” Tursun said.