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Criminal complaint lodged in Turkey over human shields obligations

A criminal complaint has been filed by Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over comments that Turkey’s armed forces are not obliged to protect Kurdish civilians who are used as human shields, the T24 news portal reported on Tuesday.

The complaint was lodged against Metin Feyzioglu, the chairman of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB)* who made the comments during a program aired on CNN Turk news channel on Saturday.

“According to the international law, if civilians are used as human shields [against the Turkish military], then Turkey is not obliged to protect them,” he said.

Feyzioglu’s comments came less than a week after Turkey launched an offensive in northeastern Syria and has targeted Syrian Kurdish militants reportedly to carve out a “safe zone” along its border for the resettlement of millions of Syrian refugees it currently hosts.

Feyzioglu, who came under harsh criticism following his remarks, has accused his critics of being pawns and spokespersons for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants who have waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades.

Ankara is of the view that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria is an extension of the PKK.

Ayse Acar Basaran, the spokesperson of HDP’s Commission for Law and Human Rights, on Tuesday, announced the criminal complaint filed against Feyzioglu to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in a written statement.

Basaran indicated that the commission also filed a complaint to the TBB about the remarks that they regarded as constituting a “war crime” for misinforming the public about what the international law requires during conflicts.

“The international law is being manipulated to legitimize and promote the slaughter of civilians during the incursion launched in southeast Syria by those in political power in Turkey. Feyzioglu has been struggling not to represent Turkey’s Bar Association but its political power,” Basaran underlined.

She added in the statement that it is not “acceptable” for political and legal actors to be “a party to the war crime” while they are expected to act with the awareness that they have historical responsibilities.

“It’s not a legal duty to support the political power’s management of the international relations with unreasonable decisions by which it reduces diplomacy to war,” Basaran noted.

The spokesperson went on to explain: “On the contrary, it’s a duty to defend the rule of law and human rights as well as the necessity to reject those [ideas] that are against feelings of conscience and justice.”

The pro-Kurdish HDP, which is accused by the ruling AK Party (AKP) of having links to the outlawed PKK, is the only political party in the parliament that refused to vote for a motion to renew authorization for Turkish military forces to enter northeastern Syria, on October 8.

*The TBB is an umbrella organization representing over 60,000 lawyers in 78 Turkish bar associations.[

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