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[NEWS] UN Rapporteur exposes scale of torture in Turkey

PPJ- 18 January, 2018

Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, has submitted a report which reveal horrific facts regarding the rights abuses in Turkey under the state of emergency. The report was published on 18 December 2017.

Melzer visited Turkey between Nov. 27 and December 2, 2016. The Turkish government had cancelled the visit of his predecessor, Juan E. Méndez, which was scheduled on October 10-14, 2016. Reportedly, the Erdoğan government restricted his visit to only five working days which is normally 10 to 14 on average by most UN member-states. Also, he was prevented from conducting a comprehensive analysis of the rights abuses.

Highlighting the massive rights violations in the country, the special rapporteur’s statements falsify the government’s so-called “zero tolerance to torture” claim. He said torture and ill-treatment allegations were seldom taken seriously by the authorities and investigated. He concluded that perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment are provided a de facto impunity.

“Severe beatings, punches and kicking, blows with objects, falaqa, threats and verbal abuse, being forced to strip naked, rape with objects and other sexual violence or threats thereof, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and extended blindfolding and/or handcuffing for several days” are among the violations which are commonplace in detention centers according to the report. “Also, both current and former detainees alleged that they had been held incommunicado, without access to lawyers or relatives, and without being formally charged, for extended periods lasting up to 30 days” says the report.

The report also mentions that the ongoing violence in the Southeastern Turkey has escalated during the state of emergency and allegations of torture and ill treatment in the region have increased. Most of the allegations refer to special operations teams of the police or the gendarme.

Melzer  said he was aware of that reportedly a large number of high-ranking military officers,  judges, prosecutors and others were held in prolonged solitary confinement but could not to confirm due to the time limitation.

The report underlines that the definition of “terrorist offender” is vague and broad in the Criminal Code. Also the report states that a new law published one day before the attempted coup enact that the executive authorities must give permission before any soldiers or civilians  taking part in counter terrorism operations can be prosecuted for any offences committed carrying out their duties. This renders investigations into allegations of torture more difficult, if not impossible.

The Turkish government did not approve the release of report written by the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), which paid a visit to Turkey in August and September 2016.

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