US-based group warns torture in Turkish prisons is widespread since failed coup last year
Human Rights Watch yesterday claimed there was growing evidence of detention abuses in Turkey after last year’s failed coup, warning that torture in police custody had become a “widespread” problem.
The US-based watchdog cited “credible evidence” of 11 cases of serious abuse, including severe beatings, sexual assault or the threat of sexual assault and being stripped naked.
It said the 11 cases represented a fraction of the credible reports appearing in the media and on social media.
“Such reports indicate that torture and ill-treatment in police custody in Turkey have become a widespread problem,” HRW said in its latest report.
The alleged victims are suspects accused of links to terrorist organisations or to organisations or individuals which the Turkish authorities believe to be linked to the attempted coup.
Some detainees reported their ill-treatment to prosecutors or during court hearings, but HRW said the complaints were not investigated “effectively”.
The group accused the Turkish government of failing to act to stamp out “abusive practices” which it claims have become far more common in police custody over the past year.
“As evidence mounts that torture in police custody has returned to Turkey, the government urgently needs to investigate and call a halt to it,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said.
HRW said victims were frightened to complain for fear of reprisals against their family.
The group said there were five cases of abductions in Ankara and the western city of Izmir between March and June “that could amount to enforced disappearances”.
In one alleged case cited by HRW, Onder Asan, a former teacher, was “abducted” in April and was missing for 42 days before he turned up in police custody and was then sent to pretrial detention.
The Turkish government has not commented.
Last month, justice minister Abdulhamit Gul said Turkey had “zero tolerance for torture”, noting the government’s commitment to human rights.
HRW said those most at risk of torture were suspects detained over alleged links to the coup-plotters or the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Turkey has blamed the attempted overthrow of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and his organisation, which Ankara has dubbed the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation. Mr Gulen denied Turkey’s accusations and insisted his movement promotes peace. Since July 2016, more than 50,000 people have been arrested for their alleged links to Mr Gulen.
HRW also warned of the pressures on lawyers who face “obstacles and risks” as well as the fear of reprisals while representing their clients.
Police detain a man in September last year during a protest after teachers were suspended over alleged links to militants