Turkish PM Visit to UK: Amnesty International Human Rights Briefing

The organisation welcomed progress on human rights in the country, but highlighted regular reports of beatings, death threats, sexual harassment and deprivation of sleep by law enforcement officials.

Amnesty International also highlighted the high incidence of violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Turkey: between 35% and 50% of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the country are estimated to be victims of physical violence within their family.

Torture and ill-treatment

Torture and ill-treatment in police detention remained a grave concern. Although there were far fewer reports of the use of torture methods such as electric shocks, falaka (beatings on the soles of the feet) and suspension by the arms, there were regular reports of detainees being beaten, stripped naked, sexually harassed and denied adequate sleep, food, drink and use of the toilet.

One reason for the persistence of torture and ill-treatment in detention was the failure of law enforcement officials to follow prescribed procedures, including the duty to inform detainees of their rights and to allow access to legal counsel. Lawyers said that in some cases they were told by police officers that a detainee did not wish to see them without providing any evidence of this. Other contributing factors included inadequate documenting of torture and ill-treatment in medical reports, and the acceptance as evidence by courts of statements extracted under torture.

Disproportionate use of force by police during demonstrations was widespread. Television news programs regularly broadcast scenes of demonstrators being beaten, kicked and ill-treated by law enforcement officials. Groups particularly targeted during demonstrations included supporters of the political party DEHAP (Democratic People’s Party), leftist parties, trade unionists, students and anti-war activists.

Of particular concern were the many allegations of people being abducted by plainclothes police and then tortured or ill-treated. These incidents of unrecorded detention were almost impossible to investigate and the perpetrators continued to enjoy impunity.

  • Sixteen-year-old S.T. reported that on 26 November 2003 in the town of Siirt, southeast Turkey, he was abducted in the street by plainclothes police, had a sack put over his head and was pushed into a car. He said that his hands and feet were bound and he was beaten over the head and knocked unconscious. He stated that he was beaten severely and threatened with a gun held to his head for information about the whereabouts of his brother. He was later left in a cemetery outside the town.
  • Gülbahar Gündüz, active in the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s section of the Istanbul branch of DEHAP, reported that on 14 June 2003 she was abducted in the street in Istanbul by plainclothes police officers, blindfolded, taken in a car to an unknown building, raped and otherwise tortured.

    Although a report from the Forensic Institute documenting the evidence of torture was pending, an internal police investigation was dropped.

Impunity for police abuses

The 11 January 2003 reform package ended the possibility of prison sentences handed down for torture and ill-treatment by police being suspended or converted to fines. The new law was not applied retrospectively. As a result, trials and sentences in such cases continued to be suspended, sometimes on the basis of previous laws.

  • On 18 February 2003 the trial of Süleyman Ulusoy (known as “the Hose”), a police superintendent, was suspended under the terms of the December 2000 “amnesty law”. A videotape showing him beating transvestites with a hosepipe in the Beyolu police headquarters in Istanbul had been broadcast on television in 2000. He remained on duty in Istanbul.
  • Ali Ulvi Uludogan and his brother Ilhan Uludogan were detained on 25 May for driving through a red traffic light in the Kulu district of Konya province. They were reportedly beaten, kicked and subjected to verbal sexual harassment in detention in Kulu police station. In contravention of the 11 January reforms, the Kulu kaymakam (local state official) on 8 August decided not to allow an investigation of the alleged torture and ill-treatment.
  • The trial of the police officers charged with torturing two Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights – Fatma Deniz Polattaô and 16- year-old N.C.S. – in Iskenderun police headquarters in March 1999 was repeatedly delayed because of the Forensic Institute’s two-year failure to supply medical reports detailing their torture.
  • In the final stage of the “Manisa Youths” case, the Court of Appeal on 4 April approved the prison sentences ranging from five to 11 years of 10 police officers found guilty of torturing 16 young people in December 1995. The high-profile case almost exceeded the statute of limitations, grounds on which less well-known cases faced collapse.

Harassment of human rights defenders

A range of laws and regulations was used to restrict freedom of expression and obstruct the activities of human rights defenders. Peaceful statements and activities were prosecuted on grounds of “insulting” various state institutions, “aiding and abetting an illegal organization” or “inciting the people to enmity”.

However, most of the investigations and trials resulting from such prosecutions ended in acquittals or with sentences being suspended or commuted to fines, highlighting what AI regarded as a pattern of judicial harassment of human rights activists.

Some individuals – including Alp Ayan, a psychiatrist at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) in Izmir; Ridvan Kizgin, Head of the Bingöl branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD); and Eren Keskin, a lawyer who co-runs a legal aid project for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights survivors of sexual assault in custody – appeared to have been particularly targeted. Punitive fines were a heavy burden on branches of associations and their members.

  • On 12 November, the first hearing of a trial against TIHV took place in Ankara. Seeking the suspension of nine executive board members of the foundation, the prosecutor alleged that in 2001 TIHV had violated the Law on Foundations by “cooperating” with international organizations without securing the permission of the Council of Ministers, and by raising funds via the Internet. The alleged “cooperation” took the form of translating reports and distributing them to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the European Parliament Rapporteur for Turkey, and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Özkan Hoôhanli began serving a 15-month prison sentence on 28 October. He had attempted to observe demonstrations in April and May 1999 in his capacity as the then Chair of the human rights group Mazlum Der (Organization of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People) in Malatya, and was sentenced to prison and fined in May 2003 under Law No. 2911 for “participating in an illegal demonstration and not dispersing after orders and warnings, and having to be dispersed by government forces with force”. He was a prisoner of conscience.
  • According to the IHD, 450 prosecutions had been brought against it since 2000 compared to 300 in the previous 14 years. On 6 May police searched the headquarters and local offices of the IHD in Ankara and confiscated books, reports on human rights violations, files, cassettes and computers. The Ministry of Justice informed AI that the search had been carried out on the orders of Ankara State Security Court under Article 169 of the TPC because the IHD was suspected of “coordinating a campaign to voice support for the terrorist organization PKK/KADEK [Kurdistan Freedom and Democracy Congress]”.

Violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights

Sexual assault and harassment of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in police custody continued to be a grave concern, and in February Amnesty published a report on the subject.

Family violence, including so-called “honour killings”, was also a grave concern. AI supported the campaign of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s groups in Turkey to remove gender-discriminatory articles in the revised draft of the TPC, work on which was started by a parliamentary sub-committee in October.

Killings in disputed circumstances

A few dozen civilians were shot dead by the security forces and village guards, most of them in the south-eastern and eastern provinces. Many may have been victims of extrajudicial executions or the use of excessive force.

  • On 8 July, five people in the village of Pul, Bingöl province, were killed by unknown assailants. There were conflicting allegations as to whether the perpetrators belonged to the state security forces or the PKK/KADEK.

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