Turkey: Risk of reprisals against torture victims and human rights defenders
The HRFT, Turkey's most important NGO working for the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims, was raided by the police on 7 September 2001. All patient files, computers and the details of doctors who support them were confiscated, in violation of long-standing medical ethics, including patient-doctor confidentiality. The police also confiscated copies of some journals that have been banned, although it is not illegal in Turkey to keep a copy of such documents. One of the doctors, Emin Yuksel, was taken to the police station for questioning.
The police, initially, did not have a search warrant but obtained one from the Public Prosecutor's Office after objections from representatives of Diyarbakir HRFT.
Given the past human rights record of Turkish authorities, 'there is a real risk that both the torture victims and their doctors will be exposed to harassment, arrests and further torture,' Amnesty International said.
Leading human rights defender Osman Baydemir from Diyarbakir was arrested on 9 August 2001 while he was with a delegation investigating human rights abuses in South-east Turkey. He was later released but 18-year-old Rasim Asan was arrested after he testified to the delegation. He was reportedly tortured, including by electric shock to his genitals and toe's, the use of death threats and hanging by the arms.
'Turkey is obliged to protect complainants and witnesses of torture from ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of their complaints or any evidence given,' the human rights organisation added.
Background Since its creation in 1990, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey has been carrying out a Project for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Survivors. The Foundation has five treatment and rehabilitation centres. More than 1000 people applied to the centres in the year 2000.
The Diyarbakir representation was founded in 1998. It plays a crucial role in the treatment and rehabilitation of torture victims in the south-east of Turkey, which is mainly inhabited by Kurds and where torture and ill-treatment is especially widespread.
In 1998 the HRFT was awarded the European Human Rights Prize of the Council of Europe for 'outstanding contribution to the protection of human rights in Turkey' and the struggle for the abolition of torture.