TEL AVIV – Turkish authorities reportedly tortured political detainees after a failed military coup led to thousands of arrests during the government-declared state of emergency, NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged.
HRW published a 43-page report documenting 13 cases of torture in which detainees were subjected to sleep deprivation, sexual abuse and rape threats by Turkish police.
“By removing safeguards against torture, the Turkish government effectively wrote a blank check to law enforcement agencies to torture and mistreat detainees as they like,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The cases we have documented seem to indicate that some have done just that. Turkey’s government should reinstate these crucial safeguards now.”
In one case, a police officer was overheard telling a detainee that because of the state of emergency, “nobody will care if I kill you.”
“I will just say I shot you while you tried to run away,” the police officer said.
According to the lawyer of another prisoner, police officers warned his client that he would not survive the next month and that they would rape him with a baton.
After the coup, the emergency decrees extended detention without judicial review from four to 30 days, meaning that even innocent citizens can be incarcerated for a month without any need for proof of wrongdoing. For the first five days, detainees are not allowed to be contacted and in many cases are not given a choice of lawyer or denied a lawyer altogether.
The report cited the Union of Turkish Bar Associations as saying that more than 200 lawyers have been detained for suspected involvement in the coup.
In a statement to a prosecutor, one detainee recounted how he was subjected to severe beatings.
“The police chief who detained me … began to slap me in the face and eyes,” the detainee said. “They beat me on the soles of my feet, on my stomach, then squeezed my testicles, saying things like they’d castrate me.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown has also made Turkish prisons particularly unsafe.
In the aftermath of the coup, Amnesty International reported that those incarcerated were subjected to torture, abuse and rape in Turkish prisons. Andrew Gardner, who worked on the organization’s report, told DW at the time that Turkey was steeped in a climate of “great fear” that was affecting everyone, including human rights organizations, journalists and lawyers.