Human Rights Week: “Torture has been legitimized in Turkey”

TİHV Diyarbakır Representative Barış Yavuz pointed out that torture has been legitimized by AKP’s blatant practices and said that inhumane torture practices continue in prisons they are not allowed to inspect.

Prisons have always been centres for tyranny in the Turkish state traditions, and with the AKP they have turned into centres for torture. AKP has used the State of Emergency declared after July 15 and the SoE Statutory Decrees to crush Kurds and revolutionary forces, and is terrorizing prisoners. Torture, mistreatment and inhuman practices have become routine in prisons, and prisoners are refused medical attention. Overcrowding due to the rise in arrestees after the political genocide operations is another important issue.

Human Rights Foundation Turkey (Türkiye İnsan Hakları Vakfı - TİHV) Diyarbakır Representative Lawyer Barış Yavuz spoke to the ANF about rights violations in prisons for the December 10-17 Human Rights Week.


Yavuz pointed out that humane living conditions are not present in prisons and stated that with the State of Emergency and by the end of 2017, the prisons are severely overcrowded, with the greatest number of arrestees and convicts in the history of Turkey. Yavuz stressed that torture of detainees has become a tool in this legitimization, and that the fear of “those who commit crimes against the state will be tortured” is instilled through images of torture served to the media. Yavuz said the torture starts in detention and continues in prison, and added: “Torture increases and continues in prisons. Before, we saw allegations of torture before people were sent to prison. But as of 2017, torture has become commonplace in both detention centers and prisons. Isolation in prisons is also on the rise. Isolation is torture by definition, and is unacceptable. Right now, thousands of people are punished through isolation in prisons.”


Yavuz pointed out that torture has increased due to the government’s stance and continued: “Prison officials see themselves as an authority, and implement limitless arbitrary practices. Why do they think they can? This is an atmosphere created by the political power. With the passing of the first Statutory Decree, the KHK No.676, the practices after the attempted coup will not be subject to legal and criminal proceedings. What does this remind you of? For us, it’s reminiscent of the temporary Article 15 of the 1980 Constitution. This gives the authorities the idea that “Whatever I do, I won’t be tried”. Before the coup attempt, during the events in Sur, the government passed a law about giving the authority to permit investigations of security forces directly to the prime minister. Looking at all this, the security forces and the wardens think they will get away with everything and they started to implement all kinds of torture. Torture and mistreatment increased due to local reflections of the government.”


Yavuz pointed out that torturers are not put on trial and are protected by laws passed by the government, and added that charges against torturers are dismissed based on the Statutory Decrees. Yavuz said TİHV has received 233 applications in 2017 from people who have been tortured and added: “83 of these applications are people who have been tortured this year. 59 people appealed after being released from prison. This is just the number of people who have appealed to us. Out of the thousands who have been tortured, a very small percentage has appealed with us. Torture in prisons has severely increased, but as we are not allowed to enter prisons and conduct inquiries, we can only proceed over the applications we receive. There are prisons being built constantly. And they are large scale, campus prisons. If it goes on this way, most of Turkey will turn into a prison. The large scale campus prison being built in Diyarbakır is almost complete. Torture in prisons is becoming a daily occurrence. The scope of isolation has increased. The prisoners are isolated from society, and then they are isolated from each other a second time.”


Yavuz said Turkey has turned into a country ruled by Statutory Decrees where laws are bypassed, the Statutory Decrees have paved the way for arbitrary practices and the law has been rendered dysfunctional which will lead to torture and mistreatment increasing. Yavuz said prisons are where torture is most easily implemented: “I have personally witnessed an obvious increase in strip searches in prisons. Exiles are on the rise. Arrestees and convicts are stripped of their right to joint visits. Arrestees are frequently battered under the guise of ward searches. Prisoners are isolated without even the fundamental human rights. If Turkey continues on this path, it will create irremediable wounds and it will be impossible for democracy to come back. That is why Turkey needs to return to a line of democracy and equality as soon as possible, and the regime of the State of Emergency and the Statutory Decrees needs to be lifted at once.”