Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] on Wednesday accusing Turkish authorities of committing human rights violations during the government's attempt to quell protests in Gezi Park in Istanbul this summer. According to the advocacy group, the authorities repeatedly showed total intolerance for any form of protest, however passive. Witness testimony and photographic evidence provide documentation of protestor beatings and sexual assault at the hands of police, as well as the misuse of chemical irritants, such as tear gas and live ammunition, resulting in the death of several demonstrators. In the report, AI demanded that the Turkish authorities fulfill their obligation to respect the right to peaceful protest, launch an effective investigation into allegations of abusive use of force and ensure no prosecution is brought against those who protested peacefully.
In June it was announced that the future of Gezi Park will be decided by a court decision subject to a referendum. The proposed commercial development of the park, a rare green space within Istanbul, sparked conflict when the government decided to build over it. Some parties believed that rebuilding the historic park was politically motivated because it is viewed by some as a symbol of liberal values. In June the UN urged [JURIST report] the Turkish government and protestors to defuse tension, while Human Rights Watch called on police [press release] to use non-violent tactics with civilians. Some argue that the allegedly egregious police conduct is the tip of the iceberg as far as the violation of human rights, citing the January 18 arrests [JURIST op-ed] of nine lawyers for their representation of politically unpopular clients.