Committee Against Torture Urges Turkey to Take Serious Action to End Torture and Stop Crackdown on Civil Society
The UN Committee against Torture has expressed serious concern about torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, particularly in the context of counter-terrorism operations in the south-east of the country, and is calling on the Turkish Government to publically condemn acts of torture and commit to effective investigation and prosecution of all perpetrators. The Committee is also urging Turkey to stop its crackdown on civil society including on health professionals working to provide support and rehabilitation to victims of torture and ill-treatment.
The recommendations follow a two-day hearing in Geneva where the Committee carefully scrutinised the performance of Government in eradicating torture.
As part of the hearings, IRCT member the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) travelled to Geneva to brief the Committee on its key concerns. These concerns related to torture in unofficial places of detention, torture during the curfews in the south-east of the country, lack of independent institutions to investigate and monitor torture and ill-treatment and the deliberate targeting of individuals and organisations working to support victims of torture and ill-treatment. HRFT was recently fined because of its provisions of rehabilitation to persons who were tortured during the Gezi Park protests.
Among the key issues addressed to Turkey are:
- The multiple concerns about impunity for torture and ill-treatment and the need to create an independent and effective investigation mechanism and ensure that the credible evidence lead to prosecution and convictions with sentences that match the seriousness of the crime. The Committee specifically addressed issues pertaining to the continued application of statutes of limitation and the use of counter charges to prevent victims from seeking redress.
- The serious concerns about torture and ill-treatment and extrajudicial killings committed by law enforcement and security forces in the south-east part of the country. Here the Committee saw it necessary to recall the absolute prohibition against torture and once again highlighted impunity as a key concern and recommended the issuance of a clear public policy statement against torture and effective investigations and prosecution. The Committee also expressed serious concern that the curfews have resulted in restricted access to basic goods and services such as healthcare, causing severe pain and suffering.
- The dramatic increase in excessive use of force against demonstrations, the expansion by the Domestic Security Package of powers to use firearms against protesters, and the lack of effective investigations into this abuse.
- The numerous and consistent reports of intimidation, harassment and violence against human rights defenders including health professionals providing rehabilitation support to torture victims. The Committee recommended that Turkey refrained from these reprisals and ensures that health professionals are not prosecuted for providing healthcare to victims of torture and ill-treatment.
- The need to adopt formal regulations explicitly authorising non-governmental organisations, medical professionals and bar associations to undertake independent visits to places of detention.
- Finally, the Committee extensively analysed the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey and expressed deep concern about the lack of assurances of individual review of asylum requests and the risk of collective returns. The Committee also issued recommendations to ensure appropriate reception conditions and establish procedures for identification of torture victims among asylum seekers.
“We now have an up-to-date expert assessment of the state of torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, which is far from positive. It is clear that most safeguards are absent or failing; monitoring and investigation mechanisms are controlled by the State; when prosecutions do happen, the sanctions mock the severity of the crime; and the State is not only failing to provide rehabilitation, it is actively targeting those trying to support victims of its abuse. We sincerely hope that this will be a wake-up call for the Turkish Government and for those neighbouring states who have ignored the deplorable state of human rights in Turkey for too long,” said IRCT Advocacy Director, Asger Kjaerum
Human Rights Foundation Turkey report to CAT available here.
Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Turkey available here.