July 19, 2016

To Press and Public Opinion

Torture is absolutely prohibited! No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergence, may be invoked as a justification of torture. 

As the two most prominent human rights institutions of Turkey, we once again underline our stance against military coups, like we did last Saturday: We are unconditionally against all coups, coup attempts, and anti-democratic practices. The only viable solution is to uncompromisingly defend, to the greatest extent possible, the rule of law, democracy, and the respect for the human rights.

Our greatest consolation is that the coup attempt, plotted by those who displayed felonious actions, including murder of civilians and the bombardment of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, has failed. When the incidents that took place on the evening of July 15 are taken into consideration, it is more than a foresight to say that in a probable success of the attempt, loss of lives and human rights violations would reach to even more dramatic levels.

We underline these points as two human rights institutions, established in order to cope with severe human rights violations brought about by the Military Coup of 12 September 1980, and to avoid the re-occurrence of such incidents. Even 36 years after this coup, a full recovery of the severe physical, psychological, and social destruction it has caused could not be obtained, despite all our efforts.

In order to reveal the responsible of the failed coup attempt of July 15, investigations are immediately launched and thousands of military members and civilians are detained. Nevertheless, the media coverage of the detentions -images and news- are worrying us. Images showing tens of individuals with traces of physical violence on their face and body, stripped naked, rear-handcuffed, and either laid on the ground or placed in a hayloft; are being distributed via media without any reservation.

These images and news are worrying us, as they suggest that the detained individuals are subjected to torture and ill-treatment. As the HRA, which has documented tens of thousands of torture and ill-treatment incidents since its establishment on 1986, and as the HRFT, which provided physical and psychological treatment and rehabilitation to more than 16,000 individuals subjected to torture and ill-treatment since 1990; we would like to strongly emphasize that no one can be tortured and ill-treated, no matter what his crime is. This is an unconditional prohibition that is imposed by the international conventions and documents, to which Turkey is a party.

In May 2016, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) -the authority and the supervisor power of which is recognized by Turkey, as a signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture- has assessed the fourth periodic report on Turkey; and has accepted the ‘Concluding Observations’ document including warnings, recommendations and propositions. In these ‘Concluding Observations’, the Committee expressed its concerns related to several credible reports mentioning torture and ill-treatment incidents concerning individuals detained by law enforcement officers. The Committee reminded Turkey of the absolute prohibition of torture, as defined in the Convention Against Torture, Article 2, Second Paragraph:  “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” This reminder by the Committee is even more meaningful under the conditions we are living in today.

Besides, as mentioned in all the international documents, medical examinations conducted in the entry to and exit from detention should take place in the health institutions. However, it is reported that with the pretext of emergency, these examinations are taking place in the security departments or elsewhere, and that the medical doctors are forced to leave their health institutions in order to draw up these reports.

It is evident that the crime committed by plotters of the recent coup against the people of Turkey is a crime against humanity. Concerning these plotters, all the necessary legal processes, as defined in the Turkish Constitution and legal codes should be carried out. They should be justly tried, and absolutely punished as foreseen by our laws, so that in future, people who have access to the use of monopoly of violence in the name of the society shall not find the courage to attempt at a coup again. Having said that, this punishment should by no means involve torture and ill-treatment, both of which are strictly prohibited by the universal law.

At this juncture, we would like to address the issue of impunity that encouraged the coup plotters. If the culprits of the 12 September 1980 military coup have been seriously -instead of perfunctorily- tried in the past, no one could have venture to attempt at a new coup. The current government being in the first place, all the governments share the responsibility of the severe consequences of the impunity.

To conclude, we underline that torture and ill-treatment is absolutely prohibited. Despite the severity of the crimes committed, coup plotters cannot be subjected to torture and ill-treatment. In line with the warnings and reminders of the UN Committee Against Torture, we call on the authorities to fulfil the requirements of the universal law, to respect the human rights, and to enable the visits of the detention places by independent human rights corps.

We once again stress that as HRA and HRFT, we will continue to effectively and resolutely follow our mission in terms of identification, documentation, and rehabilitation of individuals affected by the attacks on civilians with heavy weapons, as well as those subjected to torture and ill-treatment, while also pursuing our role in the legal processes related to these incidents.

We would like to remind that those who have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, as well as those who have been affected by the severe social violence atmosphere related to the coup attempt can apply to all our centres for assistance, in the direction of their demands and to the extent our resources allow.

Human Rights Association

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey