INTRODUCTION and OVERVIEW
Ankara, May 2023
As we did every year, also this year we share with you the treatment and rehabilitation services of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) for the people subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment and punishments, under the title of “Report on Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres”.
As the first words of this report, we should express that this period, in which the still ongoing indescribable pain and heavy destruction caused by the earthquakes that took place in our lives on February 6, 2023, has undoubtedly taken its place in our individual and collective memories as an unforgettable period.
Both to contribute to the overcoming of the indescribable pain and heavy destruction caused by these earthquakes, and to fulfil the requirements of the preparatory processes at all levels to prevent the earthquakes that cannot be prevented “as of today” from causing such heavy pain and destruction once again, ‘earthquake’ must be the priority agenda of these lands.
As a result of the efforts of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Turkish Medical Association (TMA), HRTF was founded in 1990 by 32 human rights defenders and Human Rights Association (İHD).
Since its establishment in 1990, HRFT is a human rights organization taken as a reference by national and international circles with its scientific studies on detection, documentation and repair of torture and other ill-treatment, providing treatment and rehabilitation services to more than 21,000 people, who have been subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. In addition, HRFT’s founding goals include periodic or non-periodical publications and documentation, scientific research and training aimed at the prevention of torture and other severe/serious human rights violations as defined in international human rights documents and domestic law.
This service HRFT provides for redressing the physical, mental, and social problems of the tortured individuals, is carried out with a multidisciplinary approach by professional and volunteer teams, whose numbers are expressed in hundreds, from many different fields of expertise, predominantly health workers.
HRFT is still working on the treatment and rehabilitation of the tortured in five treatment and rehabilitation centres in Ankara, Diyarbakir, Istanbul, Izmir, and Van and a “reference centre” in Cizre. 2
Although 530 new applications, the tortured or their relatives, were anticipated in 2022, 1201 people subjected to torture or their relatives applied to our centres. The fact that the number of applications has doubled our anticipations indicates not only the negative course of human rights, including torture, in the country, but also shows the meaning and effectiveness of our work across the country. The contribution of our Van centre, which we opened in 2018, to the efforts made over the years to reach more people subjected to torture in Van and its surroundings should be particularly mentioned.
Comprehensive data and evaluations regarding the treatment and rehabilitation processes of our applications are included in the further sections of our report.
As a requirement of the multidisciplinary and holistic approach to combating torture and human rights violations, HRFT has prepared numerous medical evaluation reports documenting the torture allegations upon the request of torture victims who have applied both from Turkey and from different countries of the world, that have been considered by international judicial bodies especially like European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In this context, only in 2022, medical evaluation reports/ epicrisis were prepared for a total of 135 applications.
In this context, HRFT has become a school in terms of documenting and reporting torture cases and contributing to the treatment and rehabilitation processes of torture victims. We would like to point out once again that HRFT has been one of the essential constituents involved in all stages of the Istanbul Protocol, including its formation process, from the first meeting in 1996 when the idea of creating the Istanbul Protocol was put forward. Moreover, in the process of preparing a new edition of the Istanbul Protocol, initiated in 2016 and taking three years, HRFT has assumed a special function as one of the four civil institutions with special knowledge in this field in the international arena.
Updated with absolute care to preserve its basic approach, scope, and principles, the 2022 edition of the Istanbul Protocol was introduced in Geneva on 29 June 2022, with the participation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the HRFT representative. With the agreement signed between the UN and HRFT on 20 December 2022, the right to translate the 2022 edition of the protocol into Turkish, which does not constitute an official translation, was given to HRFT to be published in print and electronic format if it is not for commercial purposes. Just like in the first edition of the Istanbul Protocol 22 years ago, the Turkish translation and printing of the protocol in the 2022 edition was completed by HRTF. The Turkish translation of the 2022 edition of the Istanbul Protocol will be introduced to the
relevant public in a short time. We would like to share that; training programs will then be launched based on the training modules to be updated based on the 2022 edition of the Istanbul Protocol.
Participation was realized in the 3rd International 19th National Forensic Sciences Congress on 3-6 November 2022 with three oral presentations and one poster. Three oral presentations were entitled, “An example of Torture, Degrading and Humiliating Treatment Practices: “Reverse Handcuffing” (Reverse Handcuffing in Applications Made to HRFT Due to Torture between 2018-2021)”; “Tolerating Torture through Detention Examinations (Detention Examinations in Applications Made to HRFT Due to Torture Between 2012-2021)” and “Evaluation of Strip Search Practice in Prisons and Detention Centres in the Light of the Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights between 2018-2022” ”, and the poster presentation was entitled, “Spatial Change in Torture: “Streets and Open Spaces: Applications Made to HRFT Due to Torture in Streets and Open Spaces Between 2012-2021”.
Among these studies, the oral presentation entitled “An example of Torture, Degrading and Humiliating Treatment Practices: “Reverse Handcuffing” (Reverse Handcuffing in Applications Made to HRFT Due to Torture between 2018-2021)” was awarded the second place for oral presentation by the Congress Scientific Board. We would like to express that this award is invaluable for the HRFT and the Forensic Medicine community.
Many tortured and ill-treated persons are also affected by other components of complex trauma. Being aware of the fact that more than medicine is needed to achieve as comprehensive a repair as possible, HRFT has been working since 2004 to develop a more holistic and multidisciplinary program that also addresses the problem of coping with complex and ongoing social trauma. In this context, since 2000, HRTF has been addressing the national and international training, panels, symposiums, the activities, and the program of coping with social trauma within the framework of three interrelated main headings (truth, justice, and repair).
HRFT publishes daily and annual human rights reports in two languages (Turkish and English) and reports directly concerning specific violations and incidents to regularly monitor and reveal the human rights violations in Turkey in an accurate, fast and continuous manner and thus prevent violations. In this context, it has developed an objective and reliable system for the documentation of severe/serious human rights violations, especially torture, and has created an accumulation of knowledge.
In a setting where the whole country is aimed to be transformed into a place of torture, where human rights violations are a rule and the use of rights is an exception, and values are destroyed by closing off the civil space, HRFT contributes to strengthen public life based on the founding role of human rights through new programs it has developed based on its experience. In this context, a comprehensive project/ program has been carried out in cooperation with HRA, FIDH and OMCT since March 1, 2021. Expanding the base of human rights struggle in 6 regions of Turkey
(Çukurova, Eastern Anatolia, Aegean, Southeast, Central Anatolia and Marmara) with this project/program; HRTF aims to strengthen human rights actors at all levels, including bridging local and country-wide efforts and establishing preventive and protective mechanisms.
We would like to state that we continue all these efforts by trying to strengthen them both in quality and in quantity, in a setting where there is massive destruction in the field of human rights.
Undoubtedly, all this work is supported by the founding board members, board members and employees of HRTF, who have been working with great material and moral devotion for years, along with the joint efforts of hundreds of conscious individuals from different social segments and areas of expertise, especially healthcare professionals, lawyers, and human rights defenders and individuals, who have come together for the same cause all over the country.
On this occasion, we must also express our happiness that our Foundation has been honored with the “14th International Hrant Dink Award for 2022”.
Finally, we would like to express our gratitude once again to all our friends who have contributed to our work and stood by us, and to all relevant institutions, especially the Human Rights Association and the Turkish Medical Association, which have supported our work from the beginning.
Chairperson of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)