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UN rights expert concerned over allegations of torture in Turkey
UN rights expert concerned over allegations of torture in Turkey

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture expressed concerns [press release] Tuesday after allegations of torture and human rights violations committed by Turkish police arose following the end of his visit in December 2016.

According to Nils Melzer, those suspected of being involved with the Gülenist Movement or the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party are allegedly subject to brutal interrogation techniques, such as beatings, electrical shock, exposure to icy water, sleep deprivation, sexual assault and threats to elicit confessions or incriminating statements against others.

Those allegedly responsible have not been held accountable as the state of emergency decree [text, Art. 9, PDF], which exempts public officials from criminal responsibility for actions taken with regard to the state of emergency, has supported the dismissal of any complaints. Melzer, in sharp criticism of such a decree, stated:

The human right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment is absolute and non-derogable, and continues to apply in all situations of political instability or any other public emergency. [T]he authorities’ failure to publicly condemn torture and ill-treatment, and to enforce the universal prohibition of such abuse in daily practice seems to have fostered a climate of impunity, complacency and acquiescence which gravely undermines that prohibition and, ultimately, the rule of law.

Last March the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights published [JURIST report] a report describing a plethora of human rights violations committed by the Turkish government between July 2015 and December 2016, prior to the attempted coup. Since then the government has taken several steps to strengthen its power. In May President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced [JURIST report] that the state of emergency temporarily placed on the country after a failed coup in 2016 would continue until the country reached “welfare and peace.” In October, however, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] warned [JURIST report] that the emergency decrees put in placed after the failed coup had resulted in serious human rights violations. Additionally, in November Turkey significantly restricted the activities of NGOs like human rights organizations and children’s groups and arrested opposition party leaders [JURIST report] alleging they were connected to terror organizations.

Currently, no investigation has been opened regarding these allegations.