Fincancı: Turkey Does not Act on Anti-Torture Measures

The interview of Yonca Poyraz Doğan on September 29, 2014 with Şebnem Korur Fincancı.

This week’s guest for Monday Talk is a person who has dedicated her life to prevention of torture, and she has said that even though Turkey signed international conventions against torture, it acts as if it did not.

“Now, authorities use torture methods that are difficult to diagnose — threats, degradation, insults — methods that involve psychological torture. Authorities use unnecessary body search methods that involve body cavities — unnecessary for political detainees, for example. And there is also collection of body fluids and biological samples for DNA analysis — even though the detainee is not a victim of rape, for example,” said Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who is the recipient of the 2014 International Hrant Dink Award from Turkey.

“In addition, torture is on the streets now because the detention period, which used to be 90 days, is now limited to 24 hours and it can be extended three times by the permission of the prosecution. It is harder to practice torture while in detention,” she also said.

Answering our questions, she elaborated on the issue.

What is the state of Turkey in terms of prevention of torture?

Turkey’s situation in this regard is not so bright. Indeed, all states use torture as a tool of pressure on citizens. Torture affects the whole society, not just the people who experience it. Even though torture has been banned with international agreements and states have been parties to those agreements — including Turkey — torture does not stop. In Turkey, we don’t see anymore certain types of torture, such as foot whipping, Palestinian hanging and electrical shock, as the authorities have seen that physicians diagnose those methods of torture. Now, authorities use torture methods that are difficult to diagnose — threats, degradation, insults — methods that involve psychological torture. Authorities use unnecessary body search methods that involve body cavities — unnecessary for political detainees, for example. And there is also the collection of body fluids and biological samples for DNA analysis — even though detainee is not a victim of rape, for example. In addition, torture is on the streets now because the detention period, which used to be 90 days, is now limited to 24 hours and it can be extended three times by the permission of the prosecution. It is harder to practice torture while in detention.

What types of torture are used on the streets now?

In one period, we often saw people tortured in abandoned places. The most obvious torture cases occurred in the Gezi protests — police used extreme violence against protesters. We have also seen some positive developments. In the past we were not used to seeing torture cases going to the court, and the judiciary was always on the side of the state not people. One positive development has been that a local court found the police who used violence against a young man in a city park in Avcılar a few years ago guilty.

Are such cases, like being beaten by police in a park or being subject to police violence in demonstrations, considered torture, too?

If it is restricting somebody’s freedom, yes. If you had noticed, law enforcement officials did not leave any points of escape for demonstrators in the Gezi protests. Even people who were in the area for other purposes were affected. The discussion about whether or not this kind of restricting of freedoms should be considered torture went on [in the international community] and at the end the international community came to an agreement that it is [torture]. And then, the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] fined many countries, including Turkey, for torturing people during demonstrations.

Fincancı: Turkey does not act on anti-torture measures
‘AKP becomes more authoritarian as it grabs more power’

The decision of the ECtHR is important but is the Turkish government going to take it into account? You know that one of the recent decisions of the same court was finding Turkey at faubecause religion class is required in Turkish schools that impose a certain belief; and following that ruling the Turkish government officials implied that they would not adhere to the ruling Where do you think Turkey is headed?

I am concerned about where Turkey is headed but I’ve been concerned about the situation for a long time, not just recently. This has been a long-standing problem of Turkey. The Turkish government signs many international agreements regarding human rights, however, the judiciary rules in such a way as if they have never heard of these agreements. Turkey either does not make necessary arrangements, laws and regulations in line with the international agreements that it signed or does not implement them even if it has them. For example, cases involving torture claims have been treated as if Turkey has never signed an international agreement in this regard. Even though the Turkish Penal Code [TCK] involves progressive changes regarding how to treat torture cases, they are not implemented. This is our problem. Second, we are increasingly becoming an inward-looking country. Turkish authorities tend to say, “How come international bodies interfere in our domestic affairs?” The mentality was the same before the ruling Justice and Development Party [AK Party] came to power, too. However, the AK Party is becoming more authoritarian as it grabs more power. Yes, the AK Party is imposing a required religion class on everybody, and now it is allowing headscarves for girls as young as 10 years old in schools and it is trying to sell it as “freedom.” How can it be freedom? People are considered children until they become 18, and most decisions concerning them are made by their parents. Are those children able to make choices of their own? This recklessness on the part of the government is worrying. Let’s go back to the Gezi protests: While the Interior Minister at the time was trying to soften the strong feelings in the society in the face of the brutality used by the police, then-Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan said that he gave the orders! There are young people who lost their lives or who were maimed, and unfortunately the prime minister says this!

‘People did not have the courage to open lawsuits’

The International Federation for Human Rights [FIDH], with its two member organizations in Turkey, the Human Rights Association [İHD] and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey [TİHV], released a 30-page report on May 27, “Gezi, One Year On: Witch hunt, impunity of law enforcement officials and a shrinking space for rights and freedoms,” documenting the systematic repression of the non-violent movement in the streets and the disproportionate use of police force. Were the people of Gezi who were subject to this violence able to file court cases against responsible authorities?

At the TİHV, we told people that we would assist those who could document the violence. Some people came to us and documented the brutality that they faced, but they never had the courage to open lawsuits. This is the result of the violence: It threatens people, it scares people, it represses people. Now we have an ongoing process that some serious suspects have been released!

You refer to the Ergenekon [a crime network with links to the “deep state”] case?

Yes, we have responsibility in this regard, too. We have not been insistent on the continuation of the Ergenekon case. I am the only intervening party in the case. I realize that the Ergenekon case was opened not for justice to be served but in order to open channels to the new “owners” of the state. However, if there were enough people to insist on the necessity of the Ergenekon case, it could have been different. At the same time, there were many rights violations during the course of the Ergenekon case raising many questions. In the end, we have serious criminals walking among us. Obviously, the government has completed its operations regarding having full control of the state, so they do not need the Ergenekon case anymore.

When the Ergenekon case first started, I had an interview with one of the close friends of Hrant Dink, writer Ali Bayramoğlu, and he had said that if Dink saw that day [the start of the trial], he would rest in peace a little. Now that the Ergenekon suspects are out, do you think Dink would rest in peace?

No, and his restlessness would last a long time because only one youth has been shown as responsible for his death, and the larger case involving many officials responsible for his murder will be covered up. The mainstream media uses all tools to cover it up, too. Everybody seems to have forgotten the photographs of the murderer after his capture in front of a Turkish flag accompanied by gendarmerie and police.

‘Detainees need to get over with shock and anxiety before seeking help’

 Do you get any applications from the police officers who were being detained because they faced violations of human rights in detention? [On Dec. 17, 2013, the financial crimes and anti-smuggling and organized crime units of the İstanbul Security Directorate detained 47 people, including high level government officials; and in August, police officers, including police chiefs who performed the Dec. 17 operation were detained.]

Not yet, and this is normal because at first these people experienced anxiety and shock. They are already greatly threatened so I don’t think that they are at a stage yet that they seek support in this way.

Last week, in my interview with lawyer and opposition party deputy Mahmut Tanal, he said that he currently faces an investigation by the public prosecutor for fomenting chaos at a courthouse for preventing detained police officers from being questioned. He added that even though the 48-hour detention period had finished, the police officers were still in detention, and that’s why he objected to the situation at the courthouse…

Yes, I faced many court cases for similar reasons.

 Would you remind us what happened?

In the face of many tragedies, the struggles I had to go through remain miniscule. There have been attempts to prevent me performing my profession a few times, and I had financially hard times as a single mother who pays rent. There are also some tragicomic situations; for example, some people claimed that they were tortured, and I noticed that they had not been examined closely, so I wrote a detailed report regarding what types of examinations needed to be done. And the Supreme Court of Appeals chief prosecutor filed a petition for criminal investigation against me! These types of situations have been happening during many administrations in Turkey, not just today, and I am very concerned.


‘Sense of justice has been so greatly harmed in society’

What are your concerns?

The sense of justice has been greatly harmed. And when this sense of getting justice has been harmed, people start to obtain justice by themselves and their feelings of taking the law into their own hands grow. We now have this feeling; people do not trust the justice system because they do not trust that laws are being implemented. In addition, I hope there will be a realization that law enforcement officials also become victims of the system — why are the suicides and suicide attempts so high among law enforcement officials?

You are at the university and continue to do your job despite the negative experiences you have had. Where do you find the strength?

I continue to go on because of the solidarity that I get from the human rights and professional communities. I believe that human values will prevail, even though I will not see it, but it will happen one day. Besides, Turkey is the land of contradictions — while you have things going down on one side, all of a sudden you can have positive developments on the other side. This gives me hope. Sometimes the judiciary’s decisions upset you very deeply, and then some courts please you with their decisions — like the local court’s recent decision finding law enforcement officials guilty in the case in which a young man was beaten at an Avcılar community park. I am still at the university because of the judiciary’s favorable decisions regarding my cases. I once had been subject to a court case for making a press statement as a public employee at the university. The Council of State ruled in that case that as the head of the Association of the Forensic Medicine Experts and the general secretary of the Chamber of Medical Doctors, she fulfilled her responsibility to inform the public.

PROFILE

Şebnem Korur  Fincancı

A medical doctor with a Ph.D., Fincancı has expertise in forensic medicine and heads the forensic medicine department at the İstanbul University. In the 1990s, when torture was prevalent in Turkey and covered up by authorities, she was subjected to the oppression and obstructions of the state as she wrote articles on medical ethics and penned reports documenting torture. In 1996, she took part in post-mortems from mass graves in the Kalesija region of Bosnia as a member of the Physicians for Human Rights team on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. On behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRTC), she traveled to Bahrain disguised as a tourist and collected tissue samples from the body of a young man whose remains were discovered at sea and who police claimed had drowned. She brought the samples to Turkey, and in the autopsy she carried out, determined that he had been murdered under torture in detention as his family had claimed. Upon recently receiving the Hrant Dink award, she said: “I feel embarrassed because I am receiving this award as I merely try to fulfill the responsibility of being human.”

The interview of Yonca Poyraz Doğan on September 29, 2014 with Şebnem Korur Fincancı.

http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_fincanci-turkey-does-not-act-on-anti-torture-measures_360090.html

International Hrant Dink Award 2014

The 2014 International Hrant Dink Award was presented to laureates Şebnem Korur Fincancıfrom Turkey and Angie Zelter from Britain, on September 15, 2014, with a ceremony organized by the Hrant Dink Foundation held at the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in Istanbul.

The award statue was presented to Angie Zelter from UK by the Head of the Award Committee Ali Bayramoğlu and Zeina Alhajj from Greenpeace.

In 1997, Zelter initiated the Trident Ploughshares campaign that aimed to disarm the UK Trident nuclear weapons system via non-violent, direct and peaceful means. In 1999, with Ellen Moxley from Scotland and Ulla Roder from Denmark, she entered the Trident Sonar testing station in Loch Goil, Scotland; where they damaged computers and electronic equipment and threw the log books, files and computer hardware overboard. After this specific action, she came to be known as a member of the Trident Three. In 2002, she initiated the International Women’s Peace Service – Palestine. In March 2012, she supported the resistance against the construction of the Jeju Naval Base on Jeju Island, declared in 2005 World Peace Island by the South Korean Government and home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since the mid-1990s, she has been arrested more than 100 times; these arrests played a significant role in creating public awareness and media interest on nuclear disarmament. In her award speech, Zelter stated that Britain systematically undermines and violates international law. It supports and trades weapons with some of the most repressive regimes in the world and mentioned the current developments as: “Currently it (UK) supplies arms to Israel and refuses to condemn Israeli war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law in the occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza.”

The award statue was presented to Şebnem Korur Fincancı from Turkey by the Jury members Baskın Oran and Saturday Mothers / People representatives Hanım Tosun and İkbal Eren.

rnHaving dedicated her professional career to the struggle against torture, in the 1990s, when torture was prevalent in Turkey and covered up by authorities, Korur Fincancı was subjected to the oppression and obstructions of the state as she wrote articles on medical ethics and penned reports documenting torture. In 1996, she took part in post-mortems from mass graves in the Kalesija region of Bosnia as member of the PHR team on behalf of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal. On behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture (IRTC), she travelled to Bahrain disguised as a tourist and collected tissue samples from the body of a young man whose remains were discovered at sea, claimed by the police to have drowned. She brought the samples to Turkey, and in the autopsy she carried out, determined that he had been murdered under torture in detention as his family had claimed. She proved the torture carried out by Adil Serdar Saçan, the former Director of the Directorate of Organized Crime Branch. Her application to intervene on the grounds that her telephone had been tapped by the Ergenekon organization and that her personal information had been filed, becoming the only intervening party in the Ergenekon case. In her award speech, Korur Fincancı gave voice to her embarrassment upon receiving the Hrant Dink Award: “I feel embarrassed because I am receiving this award as I merely try to fulfil the responsibility of being human. In addition to feeling incredibly honoured, I feel embarrassed because I am receiving the same award extended to Saturday Mothers who have been looking for people lost by the state for years. I feel embarrassed because this award means so much. I feel embarrassed because in my mind I have done what needs to be done and that does not call for an award. I feel embarrassed because what needs to be done is still not readily done in these lands. The fact that the Armenian Genocide is still discussed behind closed doors, the denial of Kurds, their annihilation, the fact that the purging out of indigenous people of this land is celebrated every year, that you live with the shame of the fact that in a neighbourhood populated by the ever-shrinking Armenian community a school is named Talat Paşa, a road Ergenekon, a street Türkbeyi, that we feel the plight of all oppressed people in our hearts but that we have failed in dressing their wounds. The embarrassment of this all…”

At the award ceremony, hosted by Olgun Şimşek, the President of the Hrant Dink Foundation, Rakel Dink made the opening remarks. Ara Dinkjian, initiating the award ceremony with his piece entitled Keesher Bar, after the opening remarks, took the stage with Ari Hergel to give a musical performance.

Before the awards presentation, Inspirations, a group of people and institutions from Turkey and from all corners of the world who multiply hope for the future with the steps they take, were saluted with a film acknowledging their achievements. The Inspirations of 2014 included Galata Fotoğrafhanesi and the Photography Foundation in Turkey which organized the “The Photographer Children of Soma Workshop” in Elmadere village, following the great Soma mine disaster, in order to provide support to children during the difficult process they faced; the Palestinian non-governmental association, ADDAMEER [Arabic for ‘conscience’], providing support for Palestinian political prisoners held in Israel and Palestine prisons; Ta’ayush [Arabic for ‘living together’], a group of Palestinians and Jews, to end the Israeli occupation and to achieve full civil equality through daily non-violent direct-action; the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety in Azerbaijan working against governmental restrictions on freedom of expression and press freedom; the Kazova workers in Turkey who occupied their workplace when their factory was closed and they were fired without compensation, and continued production; the AEK supporters’ group Original 21which unfurled a banner, featuring Alexandros Grigoropoulos and Berkin Elvan, victims of police violence on both sides of the Aegean Sea; a group of Japan citizens who prepared a video in Turkish, expressing the shame they felt of the Prime Minister of Japan regarding their government’s sale of a nuclear power station to Turkey; the Viasna Human Rights Centre in Belarus providing assistance to political prisoners and their families; the Earth Tables in Turkey during the month of Ramadan, in protest of luxurious iftar banquets organized at five-star hotels; Bytes for All from Pakistan working for freedom of expression and for the prevention of gender-based violence on the internet both in Pakistan and across the world; the movement that was initiated under the name Oy ve Ötesi/Votes and Beyond in order to find independent polling clerks for the 2014 local elections in Turkey because pro-government election rigging has been widespread, became an association in April 2014; the July 21 Association in Italy committed to the protection of the rights of the Roma and Sinti communities in Italy; and, Kıymet Peker who pulled her chair into the path of the bulldozer and started sitting to protect the park in her neighborhood from being demolished.

The Jury of the International Hrant Dink Award 2014 consists of Baskın Oran, Gerard Libaridian, Kenneth Roth, Kumi Naidoo, Mary Kaldor, Oya Baydar, Rakel Dink and 2013 International Hrant Dink Awardees Nataša Kandić and Saturday Mothers / People.

rnAlper Görmüş, Amira Hass, the Conscientious Objection Movement of Turkey, Baltasar Garzón, Ahmet Altan, Lydia Cacho, İsmail Beşikç, International “Memorial” Society Russia, Nataša Kandić and Saturday Mothers / People are the former laureates of the International Hrant Dink Award.

The award ceremony was broadcast live on www.hrantdink.org and www.hrantdinkodulu.org. All the details of the ceremony were followed in 3 languages (Turkish, English and Armenian) on Facebook and Twitter on the accounts of Hrant Dink Foundation and the award.

http://www.hrantdink.org/?Detail=15&Lang=en