17th July 2013 – Police fired teargas canisters directly at protesters during the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, turning them into dangerous projectiles that caused serious injuries, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch has documented 10 cases in which people were seriously injured, including loss of an eye, when police fired teargas canisters directly at them, often at close range. The scale and consistency of accounts of similar injuries recorded by local groups points to a clear pattern of misuse of teargas by Turkey’s police force. The Turkish authorities should immediately issue improved guidelines on when and how teargas may be used that include a prohibition on firing teargas canisters in confined areas or directly at people. The authorities should strictly enforce the policy and hold accountable police officers who do not comply with the guidelines. “Teargas canisters can inflict serious ‒ even life threatening ‒ wounds when fired directly at demonstrators, and that happened over and over again at Gezi Park,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The police and their commanders who used these canisters in such an irresponsible way should be held to account for inflicting unnecessary harm and endangering lives.”
On July 16, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled (Abdullah Yaşa and Others v. Turkey application no. 44827/08) that improper firing of tear gas by Turkish police directly at protestors, injuring a 13 year old, had violated human rights, and called for stronger safeguards to minimize the risk of death and injury resulting from its use. The policing of the Gezi protests began with the violent dispersal of peaceful demonstrators using excessive amounts of teargas and water cannon. This approach was repeated on numerous occasions and documented by Human Rights Watch. In addition to the people injured by teargas canisters and in other ways, four protesters and a police officer died from other causes in the course of the protests.