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Hunger-strikers accuse Amnesty International of hypocrisy

Kurdish activists occupying the human rights charity's entrance say they have been blocked from using the toilets

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL was accused of hypocrisy today after security guards blocked Kurdish hunger strikers occupying its London HQ from using its toilets or opening windows for fresh air.

The group of activists were on their third day of action in the charity’s office today to demand that the human rights organisation “breaks its silence” over Turkey’s abuses of prisoners.

More than 7,000 Kurds worldwide — the majority political prisoners in Turkey — are on an indefinite hunger strike over the solitary confinement of Kurdistan Workers’ Party founder Abdullah Ocalan.

A statement from the protesters says Amnesty is “deliberately ignoring the demands of millions of Kurds in their continued refusal to stand up for human rights and international law over the continued isolation of Abdullah Ocalan.”

They highlighted that the NGO had previously “infamously refused to campaign for South African leader Nelson Mandela” adding that managers are now “abusing our human rights by denying us water, fresh air and even to use the toilet.”

Protesters also accused security guards today of first locking some of them out of the building in the rain, before “roughing [them] up” when they tried to re-enter.

Amnesty International rejected the allegations when contacted by the Star and regarding the protesters’ demands, said that as a “fully independent organisation” it “does not accept instructions from any group.”

Solicitors Birnberg Peirce and Partners wrote to Amnesty in a letter seen by the Star: “Those currently actively participating in the sit-in are themselves on hunger strike and are limited to an intake of sugar dissolved in water, making access to the bathroom essential during this time.

“They inform us that they have now been compelled to stop drinking water in order to be able to continue their protest.

“We feel sure that by drawing this issue to your urgent attention, these matters will be resolved and the protesters can be given immediate access to minimum basic facilities such as bathroom use and fresh air, thereby preserving their ability to continue the protest.”

Morgan Has Solicitors director Ali Has wrote: “While we accept that Amnesty is under no legal obligation to provide access to their facilities, we would argue that it would be fundamentally against the spirit of Amnesty’s founding principles to continue the denial of basic humanitarian needs to the protesters.”

In a statement, Amnesty International accused the protesters of an “unwelcome trespass on our property” and said that the organisation was “tolerating their presence.”

It added: “We have continually repeated our willingness to engage with the protesters and have invited a delegation to meet with us next week, once we’ve had the opportunity to review the information they have given us.

“[On Thursday], mindful of the health, safety and wellbeing of our staff we reluctantly made the decision to close the building.

“There is a fresh air circulation system in the reception area which they are occupying, and they have been provided with water and food on request.

“Our office toilet facilities are in the heart of the building and given the protesters’ previous behaviour in forcing their way into the reception, in the interests of security and the integrity of the office, we cannot grant them access to those.

“They are free to leave the building whenever they wish.”

While talks were going on last night, occupier Nahide Zengin collapsed and was rushed to hospital. The status of Ms Zengin, who has been on hunger strike for 43 days, was unclear as the Star went to press.

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