Turkey Alleged to Use Chemical Weapons on Rebels

The allegation by human rights activists that the Turkish military used chemical weapons to kill eight rebels last September is supported by photographs which purportedly depict the dead Kurds, Der Spiegel reported yesterday (see GSN, July 2).

The images are said to show eight operatives for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party who have suffered burns and other extensive bodily damage.

German photo forgery specialist Hans Baumann has verified the photographs were not faked and a Hamburg University Hospital forensic analysis also determined the PKK members are likely to have been killed “due to the use of chemical substances.”

Turkey is a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits the production, stockpiling and use of chemical warfare materials. The country is not known now or in the past to have operated a chemical weapons program, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

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“The latest findings are so spectacular that the Turkish side urgently needs to explain things,” German politician Claudia Roth of the liberal Green Party said. “It is impossible to understand why an autopsy of the PKK fighters was ordered but the results kept under seal.”

Roth said there have been multiple “mysterious incidents of this type that are crying out for an independent investigation.”

Turkey specialist Gisela Penteker of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War said suspicions have existed for years about potential Turkish use of chemical weapons. “Local people have said that again and again,” she said. However, verifying those accusations is not easy as the remains are frequently released after the point at which a comprehensive autopsy is possible, she added.

Roth called on the Turkish government to make a formal statement on claims of chemical warfare agent use “in order to nullify further allegations.”

German lawmaker Ruprecht Polenz, a member of the Christian Democratic Union party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, indicated he would support an international probe of the matter. “Turkey needs to urgently look into these accusations,” he said.

The current government in Ankara has refused to comment on past accusations of chemical weapons use or has described them as “PKK propaganda,” Der Spiegel reported.

The Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeitung reported yesterday that the Turkish Foreign Ministry denied the allegations, reaffirmed the country’s status as a CWC member and said the Turkish military did not have any chemical or biological arms. Autopsy photographs of six possible additional victims have also turned up and been submitted for analysis, according to the newspaper (Steinvorth/Musharbash, Der Spiegel, Aug. 12).

German lawmaker Andrej Hunko has called on the German Foreign Ministry to lodge a complaint against Ankara with the chemical arms treaty’s monitory body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Jerusalem Post reported (Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 12).