PACE’s Godskesen: I wouldn’t return home if I were a Turk seeking asylum

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Ingebjørg Godskesen

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteur Ingebjorg Godskesen has said she would not return to Turkey if she were a Turkish officer applying for asylum in Norway.’

Speaking to Norwegian newspaper VG from Turkey by phone, Godskesen said Turkish NATO officers who applied for asylum in Norway were right about their concerns of returning to Turkey.

Calling on the Council of Europe to monitor human rights in Turkey, Godskesen underlined the excessive use of force in the country and said: ”We asked Turkish authorities to visit journalists and public officials in Turkish prisons. But they declined. We have doubts on these issue.”

According to Godskesen any Turkish officer who returns to Turkey would be detained, tortured and coerced to sign a false statement.

“I understand their concerns. I have similar concerns. If I were them, I would not return to Turkey,” said Godskesen.

The VG daily reported on Friday that 89 Turkish citizens had applied for asylum in Norway in 2016, including military officers and diplomats, saying they fear for their safety if they return to Turkey.

The diplomats and officers denied the charges of coup involvement and told the Norwegian media that they would face arrest and torture if they were to return home.

A Turkish official who had been dismissed from his job and was seeking asylum told VG, “If I go back, I will immediately be arrested and risk torture and being forced to make false statements,” adding that “in Turkish prisons, people die for unknown reasons.”

Commenting on the issue, a Turkish diplomat in Oslo argued that the officers have nothing to fear despite a relentless purge at home. The chargé d’affaires at the Turkish Embassy in Oslo, Ülkü Kocaefe, also claimed that “the Turkish state has many judicial mechanisms that protect people’s rights.” She even added that if the asylum seekers refuse to return to Turkey, there might be some validity to the charges.

NATO officials had earlier announced that Turkish military members in Brussels were also seeking asylum due to similar fears.

According to a report in Deutsche Welle (DW) on Nov. 15, most of the 60 Turkish diplomatic passport holders who are seeking asylum in Germany in the post-coup period are military personnel who were representing Turkey at NATO.

Given the fact that the military personnel at NATO have classified information regarding Turkey, which is a NATO ally, German officials are reportedly evaluating their applications with sensitivity.

“Some recently passed legislation and statutory decrees created an environment conducive to torture,” United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer said in December in Ankara during a press conference amid growing complaints and reports about the existence of systematic torture in Turkey’s prisons.

Melzer’s visit, the first by a UN torture expert to Turkey since 1998, came a month after US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Turkish police of torturing detainees. On Oct. 27, in a 43-page report titled “A Blank Check: Turkey’s Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards Against Torture,” HRW documented 13 specific abuse incidents concerning Turkey’s post-coup detainees. The alleged abuse ranged from the use of stress positions and sleep deprivation to severe beatings, sexual abuse and the threat of rape.

Human rights group Amnesty International reported on July 24 that it had received credible evidence of detainees in Turkey being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since a failed coup on July 15.

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