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U.N. rights boss urges Turkey to probe shooting by security forces

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations' top human rights official urged Turkey on Monday to investigate the shooting of unarmed people 10 days ago in its largely Kurdish southeast region and to rein in its security forces.

Southeastern Turkey has seen its worst violence in two decades since a 2-1/2 year ceasefire with militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) collapsed last July, reviving a conflict in which 40,000 people have been killed since 1984.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was referring to an incident on Jan. 20, in which 10 people were wounded in the town of Cizre when their group, which included two opposition politicians, came under fire while rescuing people hurt in earlier clashes.

"Today I am urging the Turkish authorities to respect the fundamental rights of civilians in its SECURITY (SECURITY.C)(SECURITY.8)operations and to promptly investigate the alleged shooting of a group of unarmed people in the southeastern town of Cizre after shocking video footage emerged last week," Zeid told a news briefing.

The footage showed what appeared to be a man and woman holding white flags and pushing a cart - possibly carrying bodies - across a street, watched by an armoured military vehicle, he said.

"As they reach the other side, they are apparently cut down in a hail of gunfire," Zeid said in a statement, also expressing concern that the cameraman, who was wounded in the shooting, may face arrest under a "clampdown on media".

"Filming an atrocity is not a crime, but shooting unarmed civilians most certainly is," he said, in unusually strong criticism.

Zeid said Turkish authorities had informed him that 205 members of the Turkish police, gendarmerie and military had been killed between July 20th and December 28th of last year.


Zeid also voiced concern at the prosecution of two well-known Turkish journalists, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dundar and its Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul.

The staunchly secularist Cumhuriyet daily has long been very critical of President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party that he founded more than a decade ago.

"No one should be facing life sentences, as in the cases of Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, because of an article or articles they wrote. Journalists and other media workers should not be arrested, detained or prosecuted for the legitimate and peaceful exercise of their profession," Zeid said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; additional reporting by Nick Tattersall in Ankara; Editing by Gareth Jones)