HRW: Turkish police strip detainees naked, beat them on testicles with baton

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A lawyer reported to Human Rights Watch that five people were taken to a darkened room, stripped naked, beaten on their testicles with a baton and threatened with rape.

In a 43-page report, “A Blank Check: Turkey’s Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards Against Torture,” published on Tuesday, HRW documented 13 specific abuse incidents concerning Turkey’s post-coup detainees. The alleged abuse cases ranged from use of stress positions and sleep deprivation to severe beatings, sexual abuse and the threat of rape.

HRW said it had interviewed more than 40 lawyers, human rights activists, former detainees, medical personnel, and forensic specialists before preparing the report.

The watchdog said Turkey’s post-coup emergency decrees facilitated torture as they removed safeguards against ill-treatment.

What follows is the full text of the 12th abusive incident in the series published by HRW on Tuesday.

“Three Istanbul-based lawyers told Human Rights Watch that in the context of a wider operation against a group allegedly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), 19 Kurdish men and women of ages ranging from 18 to 35 were detained on August 11 and held in police custody for 17 days. They were detained on suspicion of being PKK members. All were initially held in police custody in the Esenler district of Istanbul at the Atışalanı Police Station and five were transferred on the tenth day of detention to the anti- terror branch of the Istanbul Security Directorate in Vatan Street. Three women detainees were transferred to the Gayrettepe Security Directorate.

“One lawyer told Human Rights Watch that he had seen seven of those held in the Atışalanı Police Station on the sixth day of their detention. They had reported to him that a team of police officers from the special forces had beaten them, sworn at and threatened them and that they had been given little food for the first three days of their detention. Held in overcrowded cells without beds, the detainees reported that they were sleeping in rotation on blankets on the floor. The lawyer said that on a second visit to his clients, they reported the beatings had stopped.

“A second lawyer reported to Human Rights Watch that the five detainees held in the Istanbul Security Directorate in Vatan Street had had no access to a lawyer during their detention there until he saw on them on the 17th day of their detention. He first visited one of them and then saw all five. They reported to him that they had been beaten repeatedly, individually taken to a darkened room and stripped naked, beaten on the testicles with a baton and threatened with rape with a baton. They said the police made the threats to get them to break their silence and give statements. As a result of the threats and fear of repercussions if they did not give statements to the police, the five had decided to give statements to the police in the presence of the lawyer.

“İ.B., one of the five, wrote an account for his lawyer of what had happened in police custody at the Vatan Street Security Directorate from prison:

‘Telling me I would see a lawyer, they took me to interrogation every day for three days (in Vatan). Pulling the clothes off me and tearing them, they threatened me while squeezing my sexual organs and beating me in disgusting ways. One said, I brought your mother here and if you don’t talk I will rape her in front of you. They put a bag over my head with my hands tied behind my back and laughed at me, hitting my head on the ground and the wall, making me bend over and shouting, “Is there no strong guy to rape this one!” They left marks of beating all over my body… They cursed and kicked me, trying to get me to say I knew people I’d never seen in my life and to admit a crime I hadn’t committed and said they’d do a lot more to me if not and would get seven or eight people to testify about me before a court so I’d never get out of prison and if I didn’t accept and give names they’d ruin my life. Every day I got a medical report mentioning beating they would beat me again. They said, get whatever report you like, everything’s in our hands.’

“Detainee F.P. reported similar treatment, describing at length being beaten and having his throat squeezed, being taunted and threatened with rape with a baton by a police officer whom the other officers referred to as ‘Uncle Haydar.’ Describing the night after the first interrogation, he wrote:

‘According to what my friends said, I talked in my sleep till morning saying things like “Don’t do it, don’t hit me.” On the second day they came again and told us our lawyer had come and then did the same things to us. We were psychologically finished…. The only thing on our minds was that they shouldn’t do bad things to our families because at this point they had done everything to us.’

Detainee K.U. reported:

‘Because I told the doctor [at Haseki hospital] I had an internal infection, the doctor wanted to send me to another hospital to be checked. When the police heard this, they bundled me into the police car and punched me in the face and slapped me and verbally abused the others with me, asking us what our religion was… They didn’t take me to hospital. No hospital for you, they said, swearing at me. ….In the middle of the night they took us to interrogation telling us our lawyer had come. They beat us, swore at us and even sexually abused us.’

“The third lawyer reported that he was only able to see one of the detainees when she was brought to the courthouse on August 28 from Gayrettepe Security Directorate where she had been held in custody for 17 days. He said that at the courthouse she told him she had been beaten when she was first detained and had sustained an injury to the head although there was no obvious visible sign of it when he saw her. She told him that while on occasion she had undergone a medical examination it was extremely cursory and that on other occasions she was kept in the police bus outside the hospital while a medical report was written. The lawyer said his client told her she had been continually threatened with rape and that she was repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse. She had been able to see a legal aid lawyer appointed by the bar for a couple of minutes and had signed a long statement at the police station in the presence of that lawyer although she could barely read. The legal aid lawyer had not turned up at the courthouse when she was brought before a prosecutor and then a court.

“All detainees complained before the court where they were brought on August 28 that police officers had tortured and otherwise ill-treated them during detention. Of the 19 detainees, 14, including four of the five held at the Security Directorate in Vatan Street, were remanded to prison pending investigation. A fifth detainee held at Vatan was released and later rearrested and jailed. The three lawyers are planning to lodge formal complaints about the torture and ill-treatment in police custody on behalf of their clients.” (Turkey Purge)

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