Turkey should drop ‘disproportionate’ emergency powers: EU parliament

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to members of his ruling party at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. (AP/Burhan Ozbilici)
Updated 09 February 2018
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Turkey should drop ‘disproportionate’ emergency powers: EU parliament

STRASBOURG:The European parliament on Thursday called on Turkey to scrap the emergency powers which members said were being used to stifle “legitimate and peaceful opposition” and a free press.
Meeting in Strasbourg the MEPs denounced, in a resolution, the hundreds of arrests by the Turkish government, which they said were being carried out “in an attempt to censor criticism over its military assault” in the Syrian town of Afrin.
The assembled deputies criticized the “deterioration of freedoms and fundamental rights and the rule of law in Turkey.”
According to the parliament, the state of emergency in place since a failed coup in 2016 is “being used to further stifle legitimate and peaceful opposition.”
Since then, more than 160 media outlets have closed and Turkey’s civil society faces a massive crackdown, the MEPs agreed, by a show of hands.
EU funds destined for Turkey should be conditional on Ankara improving its record on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, they added.
The parliament also condemned the recent arrests of journalists, activists, doctors and ordinary citizens for expressing their opinions.
Turkey on January 20 began a major operation aimed at ousting fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) from their enclave in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin.
At least 68 civilians have been killed in the offensive according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Turkey has strongly rejected any civilian casualties, saying that its military is showing utmost care not to harm any civilians in the Afrin region.
The Turkish foreign ministry described the EU parliamentary resolution as “nothing but a patchwork of ungrounded claims compiled... just for the sake of criticism.”
The emergency measures are still needed “to fully eliminate the threats against the existence of our state and our nation’s right to democratic life,” the ministry insisted.
On Tuesday EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini also denounced the continuation of Turkey’s emergency measures and Ankara’s military action in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet top European Union officials next month in the Bulgarian city of Varna, officials said Tuesday, in a bid to repair strained ties.
Relations between the EU and Turkey have taken a nosedive since the July 2016 failed coup as well as Brussels’ continued objections to Ankara’s crackdown. Over 140,000 people have been suspended or sacked over alleged links to coup-plotters.
Turkey’s EU membership talks that officially began in 2005 have stalled since the coup bid, to the chagrin of Erdogan who previously said the wait was “exhausting.”
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US-led coalition slammed over Raqqa civilian killings

Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a so-called “caliphate” there. (Reuters)
Updated 16 October 2018
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US-led coalition slammed over Raqqa civilian killings

  • During the campaign to expel militants from the city, hundreds of civilians were killed in the battle, most of them in coalition bombardments, Amnesty says
  • Amnesty says that the coalition had admitted to having caused just 100 civilians deaths in the Raqqa assault, but even in those cases accepted no liability

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Monday condemned the US-led coalition’s failure to acknowledge and investigate its role in civilian killings during the battle a year ago to oust militants from Syria’s Raqqa.

In October last year, a Kurdish-Arab alliance pushed Daesh out of the northern city, backed by airstrikes of the US-led coalition.

During the campaign to expel militants from the city, hundreds of civilians were killed in the battle, most of them in coalition bombardments, Amnesty says.

“The US-led coalition’s ongoing failure to admit to, let alone adequately investigate, the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction it caused in Raqqa is a slap in the face for survivors,” the London-based group said in a statement.

One year on, Amnesty says that the coalition had admitted to having caused just 100 civilians deaths in the Raqqa assault, but even in those cases accepted no liability.

“It is completely reprehensible that the coalition refuses to acknowledge its role in most of the civilian casualties it caused,” Amnesty’s new secretary-general, Kumi Naidoo, said.

And it is “abhorrent that even where it has admitted responsibility, it accepts no obligation toward its victims,” he said.

Denouncing a “disturbing pattern” of civilian deaths, the rights groups urged the coalition to conduct a probe, both to establish the facts behind each deadly strike, and to avoid any future mistakes.

“Surely, with hundreds of civilians dead, it begs the question what went wrong,” Naidoo said, urging the coalition to look into issues such as weapons used and quality of intelligence.

“These are crucial details, to establish both facts and assess lawfulness, as well as learn the lessons necessary to avoid similar mistakes,” he said.

The latter was “fundamental to minimizing harm to civilians — a legal obligation,” he said.

Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a so-called “caliphate” there, and the coalition intervened the same year to fight the extremist group.

The militants have since seen their proto-state crumble, but cling on to a presence in the Syrian desert and in an eastern pocket on the Iraqi border where they are under attack by coalition-backed forces.

Since 2014 the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for more than 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number killed much higher.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, says coalition strikes in Syria alone have killed more than 3,300 civilians.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.