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13 May, 2016 17:23

UN 'ready' to send a team to investigate human rights violations in Turkey's anti-PKK operation

UN 'ready' to send a team to investigate human rights violations in Turkey's anti-PKK operation

The UN is ready to send a mission to Turkey to investigate alleged human rights abuses in the country's mainly Kurdish southeast, where an operation against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) continues to take place, the organization has announced.

"We are ready to send a team at the earliest opportunity and, in light of the statement by the [Turkish] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, look forward to swift official confirmation that this mission will indeed be welcomed and fully supported by the Turkish authorities," Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said at a briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Colville went on to state that “full and unhindered access for the UN human rights team to the affected population and locations, authorities, documentation and other relevant materials in southeast Turkey is essential for any credible fact-finding exercise."

It comes just three days after the UN urged Turkey to allow investigators to probe allegations of abuse by security forces in the campaign against the PKK.

In particular, it said it wanted to investigate reports that more than 100 people were burned to death in the town of Cizre while sheltering in basements surrounded by Turkish forces.

UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that to have such a “lack of information” about what is happening in the region is both “extraordinary” and “deeply worrying,” and “fuels suspicions about what has been going on.”

RT appealed to the UN in March, launching a petition which urged the organization to investigate claims of mass killings of Kurdish civilians.

It followed a report from an RT crew who traveled to Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of the Turkish Kurds.

Ankara's operation against the PKK began in July 2015, breaking a two-year ceasefire between the two sides and reigniting a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people since 1984. The operation has been fiercely criticized by European leaders and international human rights groups.

However, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan remains steadfast in his determination to defeat the PKK, saying in April that the time for peace talks was over, and that counter-terror operations would continue until the last PKK fighter had either surrendered or was “neutralized.”

READ MORE: RT’s #JusticeForKurds petition garners 10k signatures in matter of days

Kurdish militants are fighting for the right to self-determination and greater autonomy for Kurds – demands which have been rejected by Turkey. As of early April, almost 400 soldiers and police and several thousand militants had been killed since the conflict was restarted in July 2015. Opposition parties said at the time that between 500 and 1,000 civilians had also been killed in the fighting.