TURKEY: Trial of anti-rape activists should be stopped

On the day that their trial begins in Istanbul, Amnesty International is calling on the Turkish authorities to drop charges against 16 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's rights activists - 14 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and two men - who have highlighted sexual torture (including rape and 'virginity tests') of those in custody in Turkey.

The group, which includes a father of a torture victim, a torture victim lawyer and other victims of rape in custody, are facing charges of having 'insulted the Turkish army and police', which carries a sentences of one to six years' imprisonment. An investigation was opened after a June 2000 Istanbul conference ('No to sexual abuse and rape') saw statements against rape and sexual abuse in custody being made.

Amnesty International believes that this trial is mainly targeted at silencing and deterring Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and men who publicly denounce sexual torture in custody and try to bring the perpetrators to justice. The organisation, which is to have observers at the trial, has documented a general climate of impunity for those suspected of torture and ill-treatment in Turkey and has highlighted cases where those tortured - including sexually - have gone on to be imprisoned. For example:

· 'N.C.S.', a Kurdish girl (16), and her friend, Fatma Deniz Polattaç (19), were allegedly tortured and forced to give false confessions while detained at Police Headquarters in Iskenderun in March 1999. According to their testimonies, their torture included rape and other sexual assault. Both were kept blindfolded during their detention. For the first two days, 'N.C.S.' was forced to stand continuously, prevented from sleeping or using the toilet, and denied food and drink except sour milk. She was forced to strip and remain naked in a cold room. During the interrogation she was beaten - with blows directed especially at her head, genitals, buttocks and breasts - and forced to sit on a wet floor for long periods before being made to roll naked in water. Police threatened to kill her and rape her mother. Fatma alleged the same treatment, as well as anal rape with a serrated instrument. While in police custody the two were also forcibly subjected to so-called 'virginity tests', which Amnesty International believes is a form of gender-based violence constituting torture.

· In November 1999 the two were sentenced to long prison terms after being found guilty of being members of the armed opposition group Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The court did not wait for the results of the investigation into the torture allegations.

While there is an ongoing trial of police officers alleged to have carried out the offences against 'N.C.S.' and Fatma Deniz Polattaç, Amnesty International has documented a general climate of impunity for those suspected of torture and ill-treatment in Turkey.

Between mid-1997 and November 2000, 132 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights sought the help of a legal aid project in Istanbul for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights raped and sexually abused in custody. Of these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, 97 are Kurds, four are Roma, one is Bulgarian and one is German. The alleged perpetrators are mainly police officers (98 cases), but also include gendarmes, soldiers and village guards, and in one case, prison guards.

According to recent official figures, only a fraction (1.7%) of investigations into 577 security officials accused of torture between 1995-1999 resulted in convictions.

View latest press releases