Turkey (GPA) – A United Nations (UN) special rapporteur has announced the preliminary results of a study on torture in Turkish jails, prisons and extrajudicial sites stating he has found multiple abuses and cases of torture following July’s coup.
UN human rights expert, Nils Melzer conducted interviews with inmates, lawyers and advocacy groups over the course of six days last week. Melzer says the reports of torture are widespread through facilities at all levels and were most likely to occur upon initial arrest and detention of suspects. A recent investigation from BBC discovered that the recent purges and arrests aren’t limited to potential coup-plotters but also include many Kurds and leftists.
BBC obtained a detailed report from Kamil Uluc who was detained in August after he was accused of having links to the PKK:
“They had pictures of about 200 people and were telling us to say they were PKK. When I refused, the torture started. They tied weights to our testicles. I still feel pain around my groin. Then they would pour water on us and beat us. We were taken to hospital but the police ordered the doctor not to record anything. If you don’t speak, we’ll bring your wife here and rape her in front of your eyes’, they said. Then they took me to a dark room and tried to forcefully insert a baton into my anus. When they couldn’t do it, they left. Maybe I will forget the other torture – but for the sexual part, it is carved into the dirtiest corner of my heart.”
The BBC also obtained medical reports that confirm the injuries. BBC also spoke to Cihad Saatcioglu, the son of a Kurdish MP, who also described a horrific experience:
“From the moment I was detained until I was brought to hospital I was constantly beaten. It was endless – slapping, kicking, banging our heads against the wall. When I got to hospital, they tried to pressure the doctors but the medical reports confirmed what had happened so the police ran off and were replaced by others. If it was only a few officers, you might think it was an exception. But it was the motorcycle police, plain-clothes ones, anti-terror – they were all there. They were confident while torturing us.”
The Turkish government of course cleared out many of their prisons of real criminals to make room for “potential coup participants” and declared a three month long state of emergency immediately following the coup. In October, president Recep Erdogan extended the state of emergency another three months. It’s in this state that Melzer says Turkey has created an “environment conducive to torture.”
Since July, around 100,000 people have at least been initially detained for questioning from all sectors of Turkish life including the military, police, teachers and journalists. Of that 100,000; 37,000 were arrested after questioning. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International put out reports within a week after the coup stating that there had been widespread reports of torture including beatings and rape.
Melzer urged Turkish officials to live up to their laws which state that there is zero tolerance for torture. At the same time Melzer admitted that post coup legislative measures passed by Erdogan have allowed police more power and made the victims and their families “fearful of retribution.”
Melzer says the judicial authorities in Turkey are partly to blame for not properly investigating claims of torture brought by detainees. Melzer offered no specifics on the methods of genuine torture he says were carried out but did discuss human rights violations such as suspects who were detained for 30+ days with no charges, detention centers at 125-200% over capacity and women being stripped and humiliated in initial searches and pre-visitation searches.
Melzer says he fully recognizes the “imperative of Turkey to protect its citizens and institutions and its right to take extraordinary measures in times of emergency, experience shows that it is precisely in the first hours and days after arrest that the risk of abuse is highest.” Melzer also said that current conditions in Turkey are “satisfactory” despite then stating things like the 200% overcrowding and that police were keeping suspects in cells “for up 30 days without any access to fresh air,” and that this wasn’t suitable “to detain anyone for more than 48 hours” in the same breath.
The NATO ally continues to grow more erratic in their behavior at home and in world affairs and it has become unclear just what Erdogan’s endgame is. He may think he will have more leeway to act this way if he allies himself with eastern countries but then says things that anger them. On the other hand; many western allies get away with this kind of behavior too, yet he can’t seem to manage to not threaten countries in the EU or the US. Regardless of his plan, he may soon find himself under more international pressure when the final report is released to the UN commission on human rights in March.