Mistreatment widespread post-coup attempt detentions in Turkey: UN expert Melzer
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Mistreatment is widespread in post-coup attempt detentions in Turkey, U.N. human rights expert Nils Melzer has said, referring to numerous testimonies from inmates, their lawyers and civil society organizations he met last week in the country.
“Torture and other forms of ill-treatment seem to have been widespread in the days and weeks following the failed coup, particularly at the time of the apprehension and during initial detention in police or gendarmerie lock-ups, as well as in
unofficial detention locations,” the special rapporteur said at a press conference after his six-day fact-finding mission to Turkey.
His team was informed about harassment of women detainees, naked body searches for contact visitation, Melzer said, adding that many inmates have not filed complaints about the alleged mistreatment over fear of retaliation targeting their relatives.
The special rapporteur said he has also received credible reports pointing to the inadequacy of the judicial response to allegations, with many interlocutors reporting that complaints submitted to the authorities were not effectively followed up.
“Furthermore, a climate of intimidation and distrust in the judicial system has discouraged victims, lawyers, doctors and human rights groups from filing complaints,” Melzer said.
Some legislation and decree laws have created a suitable environment for torture and ill treatment, he noted, urging the Turkish government “to live up to Turkey’s policy of zero tolerance on torture.”
Melzer welcomed “the Turkish authorities’ commitment to fight and prevent torture,” but warned about “a disconnect between policy and reality conducive to impunity,” particularly in the immediate aftermath of the failed military coup in July 15.
He also drew attention to the apparent impunity granted by the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey.
“Emergency decrees extending initial custody without judicial review to 30 days, and denying access to a lawyer for up to five days, are very worrying,” Melzer said.
“Although I fully recognize the imperative of Turkey to protect its citizens and institutions and its right to take extraordinary measures in times of emergency, experience shows that it is precisely in the first hours and days after arrest that the
risk of abuse is highest,” he added.
Referring to his team’s visits to places of detention in Ankara, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Istanbul, Melzer described overall conditions of detention as “satisfactory.”
“However, most facilities visited were overcrowded, with occupancy ranging from 125 to more than 200 percent of the actual capacity,” he added.
The conditions in police lock ups are not adequate, Melzer said, adding that “holding cells, currently keeping individuals for up 30 days without any access to fresh air, are not suitable to detain anyone for more than 48 hours.”
“The Turkish authorities have the ability to prevent torture, they have proven so in the last decade. Now is the time to stop impunity,” he stated.
The Special Rapporteur will present a final report to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2017.