July 25, 2016; NPR, “The Two-Way”
In the aftermath of Turkey’s failed coup several weeks ago, Amnesty International is reporting that some detainees are being tortured and raped in official and unofficial detainment centers. Since the violent failed coup, which killed almost 300 in one night, more than 10,000 people have been detained, in some cases unlawfully.
“Amnesty International has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them,” wrote Amnesty on its website. “In the worst cases, some have been subjected to severe beatings and torture, including rape.”
The reports were based on interviews Amnesty conducted with individuals with inside knowledge of the detainment situation. The international humanitarian organization spoke with lawyers, doctors, and a person who worked at a detainment facility who could speak on the particulars of the condition of detainees.
“According to these accounts, police held detainees in stress positions, denied them food, water and medical treatment, verbally abused and threatened them and subjected them to beatings and torture, including rape and sexual assault,” says the report. Two lawyers representing detainees told Amnesty that they saw senior military officials involved in the coup being violated with fingers or with truncheons. The lawyers interviewed for the report were representing low-level military officials, judges, prosecutors, and police officers.
One of the interviewees works at Ankara Police Headquarters sports hall, one of the places individuals are being held. While some detainees were allowed access to doctors, one specific detainee with a severe head injury was refused medical assistance. Instead, as per the sports hall worker, the police doctor on duty said, “Let him die. We will say he came to us dead.” The same interviewee said about 650 to 800 other male detainees were being kept in the same location, with 300 looking like they had been beaten. About 40 were beaten so severely that they could not walk.
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The reports and interviews illustrate a fairly clear picture of what possible abuses may be taking place at these centers. The abuses may also continue because on Saturday, the Turkish government authorized that the detainees can be held without being charged for up to 30 days, a dramatic increase from the previous limit of four days. Given the detention period, abuses have the potential to multiply without proper accountability—particularly since when individuals are kept in unofficial centers, they are also being held outside of the law.
The change [in the detention period] risks exposing detainees to further torture and other ill-treatment. The decree also provides for officials to observe or even record meetings between pre-trial detainees and lawyers, and detainees are restricted in who they can choose to represent them, further undermining the right to a fair trial.
During the time detainees are held, some are barred from speaking to their families or lawyers, sometimes until just before they are interrogated by prosecutors or before their court hearings. Without contact with detainees, families are also largely unaware if their loved ones are alive.
In its recommendations, Amnesty calls on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to visit official and unofficial centers and monitor the conditions in those areas. The CPT is part of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member. According to Amnesty, the CPT is the only independent body that can conduct checks on the detention centers in Turkey whenever it chooses to do so. Amnesty also called on the Turkish government to get involved and condemn what the organization has found.
“Amnesty International urges the Turkish authorities to adhere to their obligations under international human rights law and not to abuse the state of emergency by trampling on the rights of detainees,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director.—Shafaq Hasan