We are concerned about reports that tear gas shells have been used in northern Iraq. Although tear gas is not included in the list of banned chemicals in the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) annexes, the view that tear gas shells used by the military are covered by the Chemical Weapons Convention finds support in CWC Art II Nos. 1, 2, and 5.
However, it also depends on the circumstances whether the use of tear gas grenades by the military violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and can be classified as a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Since, according to press reports, the Turkish defense minister does not deny the use of tear gas by the Turkish military in northern Iraq, only an independent investigation can clarify whether the use of tear gas violated international treaties that Turkey has ratified. Turkey is a state party to the CWC but not to the Rome Statute.
It is therefore not surprising that the demand for an independent investigation into the use of tear gas in the northern Iraq has been raised by various organizations and personalities. What is surprising, on the other hand, is that in several cases the response has been the initiation of preliminary proceedings against those involved.
During the General Assembly of the Izmir Bar Association, the executive board member of the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD), lawyer Aryen TURAN was threatened through various media channels including social media for her speech for demanding an investigation into the use of chemicals, and it was reported in the same media channels that an investigation was initiated against her. She was taken under custody and later released with a ban of going abroad.
On the morning of October 25, 11 journalists were detained during raids to their homes and their workplaces after reporting on various findings and allegations of the use of chemicals by Turkish official forces on the territory of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office released footage of journalists Berivan Altan and Deniz Nazlım being detained by way of rear handcuffing them.
Following these incidents, Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Chairwoman of the Turkish Medical Association, who demanded an investigation into the use of chemicals on a TV channel as a forensic medicine expert in Turkey, was initially targeted by government bodies and then was subjected to numerous insults on social media, and finally her house was raided and she has been detained on the morning of October 26. Following the pre-trial she was arrested.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention. A first step should therefore be a formal investigation by the OPCW and this requires a request by an OPCW member state.
We urge therefore to the OPCW member states
- to open the way for an independent investigation by the OPCW
- to demand an investigation, using the UN Secretary-General’s special mechanism to investigate alleged uses of biological or chemical weapons
We call on the government of Turkey
- to end its crackdown on civil society organizations, journalists and human rights defenders who demand such an investigation.
- to release the journalists and Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı immediately.
- Asociación Americana de Juristas, (AAJ)
- Association for Democracy and International Law, (MAF‐DAD)
- Association of Lawyers for Freedom, (ÖHD)
- European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, (ELDH)
- European Democratic Lawyers, (AED)
- Giuristi Democratici – National Association of Democratic Jurists. Italy, (GD)
- Lawyers Right Watch Canada, (LRWC)
- National Union of People’s Lawyers (NULP), the Philippines
- Progressive Lawyers’ Association, (ÇHD)
- The Center of Research and Elaboration on Democracy/ Legal international Intervention Group (CRED, GİGİ)