Torture and Inhuman Treatment in Turkey: 2021 in Review

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Turkey has experienced a marked resurgence of torture and ill-treatment in custody over the past six years and especially since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Lack of condemnation from higher officials and a readiness to cover up allegations rather than investigate them have resulted in widespread impunity for the security forces, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

The enormous gulf between Turkey’s constitutional provisions for the protection of human rights and the grim reality on the ground continued to grow during the year. In a landmark decision, Turkey’s Constitutional Court in November 2020 found a government decree that granted immunity to civilians who were involved in criminal activities to suppress the abortive putsch to be constitutional, hence sanctioning the country’s culture of impunity at the highest level.

Turkey is party to several international conventions that have different review and inspection mechanisms such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. According to information published on the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the country is currently party to 16 UN human rights conventions and 121 of the CoE’s 225 conventions and has signed 31 other conventions.

Yet in the recent past the Turkish government has continuously disregarded the provisions of the constitution and failed to uphold its international obligations. For instance, Turkey has for four years blocked the publication of a report by a CoE delegation that paid a fact-finding visit to Turkey in 2016 to investigate allegations of torture and ill treatment in Turkish correctional facilities.

The CoE’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) confirmed in two reports published in August 2020 the continued existence of ill-treatment, torture, informal questioning and restricted access to a lawyer as well as a fundamentally flawed medical screening system in Turkish detention facilities.

Here is some of the most important news from 2021 in the field of torture and inhuman treatment:

Female inmate who claimed prison guards beat and sexually harassed her found dead in her cell

Garibe Gezer, an inmate who alleged that she was beaten and sexually harassed by prison guards in Kocaeli’s Kandıra Prison, was found dead in her cell in December. “She was a torture victim. She was staying in a solitary cell [due to disciplinary action],” her lawyer and human rights defender Eren Keskin said. “How can a woman hang herself in a cell?” More..

Educator İnandı tortured and his arm broken in 3 places, wife says

Orhan İnandı, a Turkish-Kyrgyz educator rendered from Kyrgyzstan by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), was tortured and his right arm broken in three places by Turkish security officers, his wife Reyhan said. More..

Top Turkish court ruled former teacher was tortured in police custody

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on May 18, 2021 that a former teacher arrested for links to the Gülen movement was tortured in detention and his rights violated. More..

Activist Öztürk says she was subjected to brutal torture in secret detention center

Ayten Öztürk, 47, who describes herself as a socialist activist, said she was subjected to severe torture and sexual harassment in a secret detention center in Ankara in 2018. Öztürk said she lost 25 kilos during the detention. “They told me they were given the authority to do anything to me,” she said. “They told me they would continue torturing me until I cooperated with them. More..

Turkish soldiers allegedly tortured two Iranian men at border post, killing one

Two Iranian smugglers were allegedly subjected to abuse and torture at an army post on the Iranian border in the Turkish province of Van. The two men, Hasan Kecelanlu and Behnam Semedi, were held at a police station in a border village where they were allegedly beaten, attacked with knives and tortured with cold water. More..

I was electrocuted, beaten and made impotent, torture victim says

Ayhan Demir, 45, said he was made impotent as a result of the sexual torture and electrocution he was subjected to during his detention in the Mersin Police Department’s counterterrorism unit in September 2016, due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. More..

Turkey’s top court fined gov’t for torture in Afyon province, demanded investigation into perpetrators

Turkish Constitutional Court ruled in favor of an applicant who claimed he was tortured for 25 days during his detention at Afyon police headquarters in 2016, ordering the Turkish government to pay TL 50,000 ($6,000) in non-pecuniary damages and to launch an investigation into the perpetrators. More..

Prosecutor finds no grounds for legal action against policemen who allegedly mistreated Kurdish minors

The Van Public Prosecutor’s Office said there were no grounds for legal action against policemen who allegedly mistreated three Kurdish minors in detention in Van province. The young boys, identified as Ö.S., 14, Ş.Y., 16, and O.D., 17, were detained on February 15, 2019 for possessing harmful substances, resisting the police and affiliation with a terrorist organization. They were beaten during detention and had swelling, bruising and cuts on their bodies. Their injuries were documented in photographs and medical reports. More..

Students detained in ongoing Boğaziçi protests reveal torture, threats by Turkish police

“We were detained around 4:30 p.m. and forced to wait in a bus until 5 a.m. The environment itself was [a kind of] torture. We were beaten a lot. My shoulders still hurt,” İstanbul University student Elif Üçerli said. More..

Suspicions over alleged suicide of 17-year-old in jail grew as recording of his final hours was unretrievable

A DVD containing recordings of the final hours of Kadir Aktar, a 17-year-old boy who allegedly committed suicide in jail, turned out to be damaged, increasing suspicions surrounding his death. More..

Former colonel reveals photo of tortured soldiers in mosque during July 15 attempted coup

A former colonel tweeted a photo of soldiers in a mosque with apparent signs of maltreatment and torture taken shortly after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. There have been widespread claims that soldiers who were taken to police centers, sports facilities and mosques after the coup was suppressed were subject to torture and ill-treatment. The photo is apparent confirmation of the allegations. More..

Man allegedly abducted by Turkish intel in İstanbul recounted details of torture

Gökhan Güneş, who returned home nearly a week after he was allegedly abducted by Turkish intelligence officers in broad daylight in İstanbul, said he was tortured and subjected to threats during his enforced disappearance. More..

CCTV recordings at police station revealed brutal treatment of detainee

Newly emerged CCTV recordings of a man who died in police custody on June 5 in İstanbul showed several policemen detaining him and one policeman emerging from his interrogation with a bloody hand. More..

Purged military officer revealed torture in police custody in Ankara

A purged military officer who was detained in January in Ankara on alleged ties to the Gülen movement revealed torture and other ill-treatment in police custody. More..

Kurdish politician spoke of gross rights violations and torture in police detention center

İbrahim Halil Baran, chairman of the Kurdistan Party (PAKURD), said he witnessed gross human rights violations and torture at a police detention center in Turkey’s southeastern city of Şanlıurfa. More..

Turkish police sexually assaulted navy sergeant, threatened him with rape of his daughter

A navy sergeant in an elite special forces unit testified in court about the torture he and his colleagues suffered at the hands of the Turkish police, revealing some of the gruesome details of the abuse including sexual assault and threats to rape his wife and daughter. More..

CCTV recordings kept secret from the public revealed torture and abuse in Turkey

CCTV recordings kept secret by the Turkish government confirmed the testimony of dozens of gendarmes who were subjected to torture and abuse in 2016 at the hands of thugs who were working for the police special forces. More..

Former teacher said torture by police common in Turkey’s Afyon province

“During my 10 days in detention, I could hear the screams of other detainees who were being tortured,” said Servet Erdil when talking about the brutal torture and inhumane treatment he witnessed at Ankara police headquarters. More..

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