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Turkey has become a place of torture, human rights foundations say

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The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and Human Rights Association (İHD) have said in a joint statement that Turkey has become a place of torture during the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, local media reported on Saturday.

The statement, which was released on Saturday on the occasion of June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, said torture and violence have become “normal” in police stations, on the streets, in prisons and in daily life in Turkey.

“The whole country has become a place of torture as a result of the way the current political power, which has made all the issues of the country, from the economy to public health, a security problem, manages the country based on increasing pressure and control,” the foundations said.

They added that the AKP government’s zero-tolerance policy towards torture had been historically and factually proven to be just “a propaganda rhetoric.”

“In proportion to the increasing authoritarianism of the political power, torture and other ill-treatment practices in official detention centers continue as a result of the violation of procedural safeguards, which has become widespread at various levels of the state power — the length of detention periods, the dysfunction of monitoring and prevention mechanisms or the absence of independent monitoring and prevention, remarks encouraging torture from the most authoritative [political] figures and deep-rooted policies of impunity,” according to the statement.

The rights foundations further said it was “extremely worrying” that cases of enforced disappearances had increased again following the declaration of a state of emergency following a coup attempt in July 2016, which remained in effect for two years.

They referred to the case of Yusuf Bilge Tunç, a former public servant who went missing in August 2019 and is feared to have been abducted by Turkish intelligence. No one has heard from him since.

Tunç worked in Turkey’s Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry, the government agency responsible for defense procurement, and he was summarily fired by an executive decree after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt on the grounds that he had links to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding the failed coup in 2016 and have designated the group as a terrorist organization. The movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The joint statement also included a list of demands from the rights foundations that underline that the obligation to prevent and stop torture rests primarily with the government.

Among the demands were ending the policy of impunity for public servants, the abandonment of rhetoric that praises and encourages torture and the torturer, public condemnation of torture from authorities at all levels, full implementation of procedural safeguards in detention conditions, shortening of detention periods and opening prisons to human rights and legal organizations.

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