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17 Mar, 2016 05:04

#JusticeForKurds: RT calls on UN to probe Turkey's alleged killing of Kurdish civilians

RT has launched a petition calling for a UNHRC-led investigation into claims of alleged mass killing of Kurdish civilians. It is said to have been committed by the Turkish military during Ankara's crackdown on Kurds in the country's southeast.

RT’s petition on Change.org: We urge UNHRC to investigate alleged mass killing of Kurds in Turkey

An RT crew visited Cizre in Turkey’s Sirnak province following reports of a brutal military crackdown on the civilian population in the area. It allegedly included slaughtering of hundreds of civilians trapped in basements. The reports which surfaced in February stated that some 150 people were burned to death.

RT's William Whiteman witnessed shocking scenes of destruction in the southeastern Turkish town, and collected horrifying accounts of an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians there.

Witnesses who survived the offensive by the Turkish military provided Whiteman with terrifying details on what had happened in the now-devastated area, and showed the location of the alleged mass killing.

The footage shot by RT journalists in Cizre has been submitted to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international and Middle East branches of Medics Without Borders (MSF), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and Amnesty International.

RT asked if the international organizations were planning to investigate the claims of Turkish forces' atrocities against civilians, and if any statements would be made. None of them have responded in detail, citing a variety of reasons.

Amnesty International emailed saying they "will not be able to comment on this at this time and must decline your offer." HRW said their Turkish researchers "are still looking into the allegations, but are not available to comment at present."

The ICRC said they do not have a Turkish office, thus cannot investigate the situation in its southeast. The UN Human Rights Commissioner's office in Geneva only offered a press-release dated February 1, while MSF have not replied as of this publication.

"We want to attract widespread public attention and call for an independent international investigation led by UNHRC into the alleged mass killing of Kurds in south-eastern Turkey," the petition launched by RT on the Change.org platform says.

Follow RT's LIVE UPDATES on Turkey's military crackdown on Kurds in anti-PKK op

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for an investigation into reports of massive human rights abuse in south-eastern Turkey against Kurdish nationals.

“Any reports, particularly those documented ones, about rude and large scale human rights abuse and violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated. There are special international procedures for that,” Lavrov said.

Turkey has claimed it will continue its operations against Kurdish militia, saying its aim is "to ensure peace in the region."

The US State Department said it has "certainly acknowledged Turkey’s right to defend itself against terrorists," referring to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the militant group leading a guerrilla war against Turkey, but added that Ankara must "do so in accordance with international law and obligations that they have."

On January 1, 200 academics from around the world signed a petition denouncing Turkey’s military operation against the Kurds. The document was branded "terrorist propaganda" by the Turkish government, and over 20 academics were detained by the Turkish authorities for signing it.

READ MORE: Arrested Turkish academics called for peace talks – petition signee to RT

Reports of Turkish troops slaughtering scores of civilians trapped in the basements of Cizre first surfaced in February. A member of the Turkish parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party accused the military of having "burned alive" around 150 people, while they were trapped in basements in different buildings.

"Some corpses were found without heads. Some were burned completely, so that autopsy is not possible," Feleknas Uca told Sputnik news agency, adding that "most" of those killed were Kurds. In his unverified report, the MP warned that more people could face a similar fate, as more than 200 remained trapped inside buildings across the region.

READ MORE: ‘Turkish Kurds trapped in Cizre victims of brutal state terror’

Prior to the Turkish MP's claims, the ANHA news agency reported the discovery of over a hundred bodies in the Sur and Cudi neighborhoods of Sirnak's Cizre district. DNA samples were taken from the victims to identify the bodies, as the corpses were so badly burned that relatives were only able to identify 10 of them, according to the report.

In February, the Turkish Human Rights Foundation said that since August 16, 2015 until February 5, 2016 at least 224 civilians (42 children, 31 women, 30 people over the age 60) lost their lives in the regions and during periods when curfews were officially declared. It added: “It is estimated that, according to the 2014 population census, at least 1,377,000 residents have been affected” by those curfews and the fundamental rights of those people “have been explicitly violated.”

READ MORE: ‘This is a crackdown on civilian population, not PKK’: Kurdish politician on Ankara’s south-east op

Amnesty International reported in January that the Turkish military operation conducted under round-the-clock curfews was putting the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk and was “beginning to resemble collective punishment.”

“Cuts to water and electricity supplies combined with the dangers of accessing food and medical care while under fire are having a devastating effect on residents, and the situation is likely to get worse, fast, if this isn’t addressed,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia.